God

Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions (book 9 of 12)

Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions (book 9 of 12)

September 29, 2019
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“The way to power is by giving, not by taking.”

I got it from Sara. She read it, marking the pages where she found little gems of wisdom and insight, and then mailed it to me.  And I, in turn, made it one of my twelve English books of the year: Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions by John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes. The book was first published the year I was born, 1972, and the copy I was gifted is an enriched classic published 1994.

“A fascinating story” is a blurb by Library Journal included in the preface. And yes. It is. Spanning high and low, delving into Lame Deers personal life as well as ancient stories such as that of White Buffalo Woman, dipping a toe into the use of herbs as medicine and components of rituals, and much more.

There are several passages I found of great interest, here are two providing me with great amounts of tankespjärn:
“A medicine man shouldn’t be a saint. He should experience and feel all the ups and downs, the despair and joy, the magic and the reality, the courage and the fear, of his people. He should be able to sink as low as a bug, or soar as high as an eagle. Unless he can experience both, he is no good as a medicine man. Sickness, jail, poverty, getting drunk – I had to experience all that myself. Sinning makes the world go round. You can’t be so stuck up, so inhuman that you want to be pure, your soul wrapped up in a plastic bag, all the time. You have to be God and the devil, both of them. Being a good medicine man means being right in the midst of the turmoil, not shielding yourself from it. It means experiencing life in all its phases. It means not being afraid of cutting up and playing the fool now and then. That’s sacred too.
Nature, the Great Spirit – they are not perfect. The world couldn’t stand that perfection. The spirit has a good side and a bad side. Sometimes the bad side gives me more knowledge than the good side.”

“This kind of medicine man is neither good nor bad. He lives – and that’s it, that’s enough. White people pay a preacher to be ‘good’, to behave himself in public, to wear a collar, to keep away from a certain kind of woman. But nobody pays an Indian medicine man to be good, to behave himself and be respectable. The wicasa wakan just acts like himself. He has been given the freedom – the freedom of a tree or a bird. That freedom can be beautiful or ugly; it doesn’t matter much.”

How different this is to the way the culture of the world I perceive myself a part look at it. We strive for goodness, for the perfect gurus, damning each and everyone forever if there were ever a speck of dust marring their perfect image. We do it for politicians and business leaders, for holy men and women and artists, for anyone we want to put on a pedestal.

Being put on a pedestal, never be allowed to slip up, make a mistake, falter. Neither here and now, in the future nor for that matter, in times gone by.  Could there ever be a position I’d want less than that one?


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2019, to read and blog about 12 Swedish and 12 English books, one every other week, books that I already own.

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Clapton’s guitar – watching Wayne Henderson build the perfect instrument (book 7 of 12)

July 28, 2019
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In 2015 I listened to a riff from Jonathan Fields on Good Life Project, telling a tale about one of Eric Clapton’s guitars. It must have stuck with me (things have a habit to do just that), because when I stumbled upon a book entitled Clapton’s guitar – watching Wayne Henderson build the perfect instrument, by Allen St. John, in a thrift shop in Karlskrona in 2018, I bought it. And now, in 2019, I’ve read it. And what a read it’s been!

There’s this one thing that fascinates me. Professionals. It doesn’t really matter what the profession is, but someone who’s a pro just gets me going. I’ve blogged (and vlogged) about a few of them; massage therapists, physiotherapists and chiropractors, train conductors and smartphone salesmen.

This book. It’s about a pro. Or rather, about pros. Not just the one. There are many a professional featured in this book, but more than anything, it’s about Wayne Henderson, a master acoustic guitar builder. A luthier.

“[…] Wayne Henderson is a genius. His brand of genius harks back to the word’s unsullied origins: the Roman term for ‘begetter’. In the days of Ceasar, a genius wasn’t something you were, it was something you had. A genius was a vaguely protective being like a guardian angel, but most of all this Roman version of a genius was a maker, a conjurer, a genie, who could create very real things out of thin air. And in that old-school sense of the word, Wayne Henderson has a certain genius, an ancient forest nymph that sits on his shoulders and whispers directions every time he picks up a piece of wood.”

And I love it. What a joy, a thrill, a treat, to read this book! I don’t understand the half of it, now and again, when it comes to the technical terms for all of the parts and steps that make up building a handcrafted acoustic guitar but it simply doesn’t matter. I am enraptured anyway.

“Every guitar has its own voice, an individual timbre that’s as distinctive as a human voice – there’s no doubt that some techie could program voice recognition software to respond to the idiosyncratic strum of a particular guitar. Where does this voice come from? In a way, it comes from God or Mother Nature or whatever name you choose to apply to those things we can’t quite fathom and can’t quite control.”

Part of what makes this book such a delight to read are the many characters that congregate in Hendersons guitar work shop. Allen St. John paints their portraits beautifully, and except for the lack of smells from working pieces of wood, I feel as if I am perched on a stool in that workshop, watching skilled hands do their thing, all the while the gentle banter flows back and forth, as jokes and stories are being told.

“‘Number 1 is the state of mind of the person building the guitar’.
I was stunned.
In a single sentence, he [T.J. Thompson] had articulated the hypothesis I had been gradually creeping toward. An instrument is the sum total of not only the builder’s experience, but his experiences. You need to be a good man to build a good guitar. 

[…]

‘When people ask me how to build a better guitar, I always think and sometimes say, ‘Be a better person.’ You can’t keep your personality out of the work. It’s impossible.'”

Those paragraphs from pages 224 and 225 (of my hardcover edition from free press) are part of the insight that Jonathan Field riffed about, and when I read it, I remembered that I had actually blogged about this specific thing. Something with it resonated with me, and I think, perhaps, because I’d like for it to be universally true. I am not sure it is, but I would sure like for it to be!


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2019, to read and blog about 12 Swedish and 12 English books, one every other week, books that I already own.

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