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Ginger Alden Confirms Elvis’ Thirst for Knowledge

 Ginger finally tells her story about Elvis!

UnknownWho is Ginger Alden?  Ginger Alden was Elvis’ last love.  She spent the last nine months of his life with him.  You can read about the love affair in her new book, Elvis and Ginger   Elvis Presley’s Fiancee’ and Last Love Finally tells Her Story.

She, like all of the other Memphis Mafia (people around Elvis), was starry-eyed and overwhelmed by Elvis’ persona and “apparent” wealth.  Ginger was only twenty years old when Elvis came into her life.  He was in his forties.  According to Ginger, there was a great distance of years but it did not seem that way when they were together.  Elvis gave her jewels, automobiles, fur coats, and a credit card of her own.  He showered presents on the rest of her family, and promised to pay for her mother’s home. (Elvis died before this was accomplished.  When he died, he had little money in his estate.  Vernon (Elvis’ father) contested the promise and he won in court also.)

Unlike other books written by his entourage, Alden does not damage the image of Elvis. She writes about a tender and needy side of this bigger-than-life performer. From all of the stories written about him in the book, Ginger believed that Elvis was in search of a new family. His old associates and family were increasingly becoming dysfunctional. She and her mother and sisters, for a few months, provided a welcoming and appreciative place to go.

Throughout her recollection of her time with Elvis, she told stories of how they would read books together, almost every day.  They discussed all sorts of religions and religious books, talked about world news, and meditated together.  They were soul mates.  In her book she lists many of the books that Larry Geller also mentions as favorites of Elvis.

Here is an excerpt, “While I was packing, Larry Geller had flown in and given Elvis more religious books.  Elvis gave some copies to me when I returned to Graceland, and I was happy to be included.  I had begun to enjoy our ritual of reading together and talking about the various ideas that we found intriguing in these books.”  (p. 155)

Certainly, Elvis never wanted to reveal to the public that he was an intellectual.  That would go against all of the bump and grind and fabulous notes he hit on stage.  But, secretly, most of his spare time was spent in reading.  He did not like parties, did not drink alcohol, and did not like anyone to see him in a bathing suit.  He was shy!

New Book, "For the Love of Elvis"

New Book, “For the Love of Elvis”

Elvis was also very ill at this time.  Ginger does not seem to be fully aware of his problems, even today.  She did not know that he had “bone” cancer.  She knew that he would often gain water weight, and thought that his diet had something to do with it.  The truth was that Elvis had experienced a few heart attacks.  Along with the heart condition, he had high blood pressure, diabetes, a liver disease, and glaucoma.  At one point he almost went blind in one eye.  (Remember the cloudy sun-glasses he wore.) He had broken so many bones studying Karate, that it was difficult for him to perform without pain killers.  There is more, and I address these problems in my book, For the Love of Elvis.

While Ginger is now in her fifties, the book is written from the point of view of someone who is barely out of the teen years.  There is evidence that she kept a diary, or kept notes about her activities with Elvis.  Many of the stories have more detail in them than most people would remember.  And while she is telling her story, she does very little, if any, analysis of Elvis’ career.  She assumes that it is normal for a teenager to be swept off her feet by an entertainer.  From almost the first moment she met Elvis, she joined his tours and lived with him at Graceland.

When Elvis died, there were many rumors floating around about Ginger.  Some in Elvis’ entourage blamed her for his death.  Questions were asked, “Why did Ginger have her makeup on when she came downstairs to report that Elvis was lying on the floor in his bathroom?”  Some said that she had phone calls with publishers before she informed the staff that Elvis was sick.  No one knows the truth.  And Ginger does not answer these accusations head on.  What she does do, in the book, is to claim that Elvis wanted her to wear her make up to bed, so, she always had eye makeup on when she went to sleep.

We are not allowed to know much more about Alden.  She had great grief, but somehow she was offered parts in movies and modeling jobs.  She, like so many of the members of Elvis entourage, went on to garnish a living because they knew the “King.”  His legend helped feed her career.

This book is very important because it is another source that makes reference to books that Elvis loved to read.  Eventually, I will discuss many of those sources in a new book on Elvis.

Please forgive me if I am too critical.

When I was seventeen years old, I was dating a handsome and apparently wealthy sailor.  He drove a Cadillac like the one that was given to Ginger.  He wanted to marry me and even asked my father if he would give him permission to marry me.  I was only seventeen years old and had not seen the world.  I wanted to make my own way in life.  I did not want someone to take care of me.  The chances were that I was going to be very poor for the next few years in my life.  I had been accepted into several colleges and had no money.  My parents could not support me.

As Evita sings, “I chose freedom.”  Ginger chose the opposite.  She became the handmaiden of Elvis, with a gorgeous diamond ring and the promise of marriage some day.  Don’t Cry for me Argentina

 

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

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Charlie, Our Best Friend is Gone!

Charlie is on the Left

Charlie is on the Left

A few weeks ago I was walking and came across a squirrel that had been hit by an automobile. He still had a leaf in his mouth. I searched for some sticks, and lifted him up off the road so that he would not be totally squished by oncoming traffic. As I placed his remains by the side of the road, a man stopped and looked at me and said, “Thank you.”

Sleeping Charlie

Sleeping Charlie

Only two days ago, during my walk on Highland, I came across a beautiful turtle that had been run over by a less-than-alert driver. He was not moving. I gently picked him up, and placed him by the side of the road. Was he only stunned? On my way back, I checked to see if he had moved. His little life was gone.  I wanted to plan a funeral for him, but I didn’t.

Today, a neighbor brought the collar of our precious Charlie to me.

Earlier, Charlie had escaped from the yard. I screamed as he ran down the street, but his adrenaline was pumping and he did not hear me.   I, and neighbors, looked for him for hours. They kept saying he was going to come home. But he never did.

Charlie is wrapped up and sleeping

Charlie is wrapped up and sleeping

A neighbor found him laying by the side of the road only three houses away. Was he coming home? Had he been hit by a car? He had grass in his mouth? There was no blood anywhere. My neighbor offered to bring him back home in his golf cart. We wrapped him in a white towel. A passerby helped lift him into the cart. I wrapped him in another towel and hoped for him to start breathing. My neighbor carried him to our house and placed him on a bench. Every few minutes I went out to see if he had come back to life.

Charlie was an unusual Jack Russel, who at 16.5 years, looked like a dog half his age. Our Vet said he had a good five years left in him. But Charlie could barely hear and his eyes were dimming. His nose kept him on the right path.

Charlie and Twinkers

Charlie and Twinkers

When Charlie came into our lives, he was timid and shy. Maxi (our deceased Schnauzer)  taught him to bark, and he learned that he could rule all of us. Soon, he was tearing apart all of Maxi’s toys. Maxi went into deep depression for almost a year. But soon they were brothers, sleeping and barking together.

Charlie was more human than dog. He talked to us about everything. He would sit in front of me and complain when Tom was working in

Charlie, Twinkers, and Tom

Charlie, Twinkers, and Tom

another country. He had an opinion about the heat, the cold, the weather and only liked to stay outside when it was warm. When the alarm for the dryer would go off, he would sit in front of it, asking for a hot towel. He usually got one. He liked his food softened with water and fought over treats with Twinkers (our Maltese mix and his sister). He would let her steal his treat and then bark at her. He watched television with Tom, and was always interested in the story. Charlie gave us so much attention–almost every waking minute. He did not like to be alone.  I can’t imagine living without him!

Charlie was shy with other people.  He did not want to meet them if we were around.  If guests

Charlie watching TV

Charlie watching TV

came to the house he would keep circling them until they left.  He barked at everything that moved, and taught Twinkers how to do the same thing.  It is a tradition, I guess.

But Charlie liked to run. He was so naive. He thought life outside the house was just as safe as inside.   He escaped probably 4-5 times a year and generally ran the same route, down to the dam at the lake. Once, when we lived at Shoal Creek, he ran out into four lanes of traffic and survived. He also ran down a hill across four lanes of traffic, and found friends at a huge apartment complex. (He liked people when we weren’t around.  He took his job of protecting us seriously.) He was a runner but when we approached him, he would always come to us. Today, Charlie ran for the last time.

There is a great emptiness in our hearts … and our lives, and we will never forget how much love he gave to us.  

Charlie sitting in the front seat of our old motorhome!

Charlie sitting in the front seat of our old motorhome!

We just purchased a new motorhome with Charlie in mind.  We knew he would need space to run, and now he will never experience that space we chose for him.

Goodbye Charlie, we loved you!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.

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Elvis and his Exploration of the Freemasons

Inside Elvis’ Exploration of the Masons

Remembering Elvis

Remembering Elvis at a local diner in Missouri.

TCB

TCB Taking Care of Business

Writers on the left and the right have paid attention, some hypercritical, to the symbols that Elvis wore in his concerts. The most obvious is the lightning bolt with TCB inscribed on it. “Taking care of business” was an African-American slogan from his early life that he adopted for himself.

 

 

 

 

Templar Cross

Templar Cross

There is evidence that Elvis studied the Freemasons and their symbols. Some suggest that he was a member himself. Both Larry Geller in his book If I Can Dream, Elvis’ Own Story, and a list of books Elvis read, obtained from a staff researcher at Elvis Presley Enterprises, mention books about the Freemasons. An obvious symbol that Elvis wore was a Templar cross. Many suggest that masons were involved in the Crusades during the Middle Ages whose goal was to take back Jerusalem from the Muslims. Elvis also wore and used many other symbols that will be summarized in another blog.

Starved for answers to personal questions and an interest in other cultures and peoples, Elvis considered the Freemasons. After all, thousands of powerful and influential people throughout history claimed Masonic allegiance. Check out Wikipedia and its very short list of Masons. Kings, Emperors, Presidents, Islamic Scholars, Christians, Jews, soldiers, politicians, composers, entertainers, reporters, and even astronauts claim to be members. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Freemasons_(A–D)

Symbol of the Freemasons

Symbol of the Freemasons

Freemasons claim to offer its members an ethical and compassionate worldview. While they do not want to be termed a religion, there are traces of many religions in their literatures. Masons assimilated many belief systems and re-interpreted them to create their own “legends.” Their literatures often point to a Divine Essence or Being, (Supreme Intelligence, Triune Self) but it appears that they were open to members of any faith.

Some point to Deism or Universalism as an influence. I found links to astrology, numerology, Hinduism, and more. For instance they mention the “AUM” symbol as their own, as well as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. They include stories from ancient Israel found in the Hebrew Bible. “Sin” is also a component of their belief system.  And Solomon is the featured character along side the ancient temple of Israel.

My father was a Mason. He said he was a 32nd degree (whatever that meant to the Roseville Lodge?) and often brought new members to our home and taught them how to read secret books. He explained that being a member of the Masons was like joining a union, and that members helped out each other. This secret fraternal organization was only open to males. Some lodges admit females now.

Masons

Eighteenth Century meeting of Lodge of Masons in Vienna

Harold W. Percival in his book on Masonry and Its Symbols (1952) (which Elvis read) also describes some of the masonic rituals. I am including a painting of a Lodge Meeting in Vienna, Austria around 1786. Take a good look at this painting. The new member is blindfolded. Men are sporting swords. Some are wearing aprons. A religious official sits to the right and there is a cross on the left. On the table in front are several metal and stone items. (It is unclear as to what they are from the painting.)   Some claim that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is sitting on the far right? Mozart could have been a connection for Elvis too! Note the triangle with candles and the curtain that is about to close to maintain secrecy.

According to several Masonic sources during the initiation ceremony of a new member, the man is blindfolded and stripped naked. A rope or cable tow is placed around his neck. Sharp instruments prick him.  He is paraded around the room like this.  As the initiate progresses in the fraternal order, he “receives the signs, grips, and words.” (Perceival, 9) Then, he receives a lambskin apron to cover his private parts. The initiation or an additional ceremony continues with the slaying of Hiram, who is purportedly the chief architect of Solomon’s temple. The candidate is ritually killed, and then raised by Solomon. All of this symbolizes the new member as leaving a previous life and entering a new life with the Masons.

Masonic Temple

Masonic Temple in Hannibal, Missouri

What actually happened during the ceremonies?   Details are unclear, but a person living in the twenty-first century can recognize the “hazing” and “secrecy” that is found within the Greek societies flourishing on college campuses today.

The Roman Catholic Church, according to one writer, disallows its members from joining the Freemasons.  My father told horrible stories about Roman Catholics, and I wonder if it was a backlash against Roman Catholic Church banning of the Masons?  see:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_ban_of_Freemasonry

This blog is only a peak at the information that will be contained in my forthcoming book on Elvis and his religions, title to be announced when it is published.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Elvis Presley and “The Prophet,” Khalil Gibran

The Divine Mother and Elvis Presley

Elvis at Graceland

Elvis at Graceland

The Prophet was a popular book read by young people in the 1960’s in the United States. I remember reading it twice because it was short and simple to read. Now reading it fifty years later, I realize that I adopted some of the points of view in the book. Khalil’s popularity grew among what was termed the Counter Culture and the New Age movement in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Born into a Christian/Catholic family that followed a specific rite or ritual called Maronite in (Mount) Lebanon, yet also speaking and writing Arabic, Gibran became an artist and writer who never married. He died early, at the age of 48. He studied Islam, the Bahai’s,  and found comfort in the words of the mystical Sufis.

Many people in the middle of the twentieth century were drawn to Khalil’s work. Elvis, in looking for answers to his own struggles with Christianity, would have enjoyed reading this book. In a way, The Prophet, argues for the same type of morality that Elvis lived.  He was open, and honest, and did not subscribe to a rigid morality. For instance Gibran writes, “Love one another, but make not a bond of love.” (15) This describes Elvis’ life completely. He never wanted to capture anyone, nor did he want to be captured after Priscilla divorced him. In an explanation on giving, Gibran writes, “It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” (19) Elvis gave of himself and his belongings until there was virtually nothing left.

Gibran’s The Prophet is a synthesis of several universalistic and pantheistic thoughts wrapped in

The Prophet

The Prophet

a monotheistic point of view. He offers a point of view of life that is for everyone, and discovers the Divine in everything. While he uses the word God, he also used the term God-Self (39). He deliberately and indirectly attempts to discredit formal or classical religions, which teach rigid dogma and ethical guidelines.

While The Prophet is not categorized as sacred literature, I think the writer intended it to be interpreted that way. Throughout the book Gibran’s goal is to pull people away from dualistic thinking; that there is only a left or right or a good or a bad in life. He pushes them to the middle of an argument, but does answer the questions for them. He speaks in riddles and reminds me of a Zen Master who offers Koans to his followers. Here is a cute one entitled, “Dreamland.”

 Our school master used to take a nap every afternoon, related a disciple of Soyen Shaku. We children asked him why he did it and he told us: I go to  dreamland to meet the old sages just as Confucius did. When Confucius slept, he would dream of ancient sages and later tell his followers about them.

It was extremely hot one day so some of us took a nap. Our school master scolded us. We went to dreamland to meet the ancient sages the same as Confucius did, we explained. What was the message from those sages? our school master demanded. One of us replied: We went to dreamland and met the sages and asked them if our schoolmaster came there every afternoon, but they said they had never seen any such fellow. (Zen Koans.

Khalil Gibran

Khalil Gibran

The person who speaks/writes in The Prophet, is one who is alone, who is lonely most of the time, and lives in the forests or away from the people. He is about to leave on a ship and wants to bid farewell to the people and leave important messages for them. Did Khalil want to portray himself as an Ascended Master? Or was he portraying himself as a wise sannyasin found within Hinduism.  Similar to the way that the Law Code of Manu, an ancient Hindu sacred text, is written, villagers ask the prophet questions and he answers them.

Gibran offers an alternative to organized/rigid religion when he argues  that simply eating and drinking is an act of worship. (23-24)  Gibran speaks of a mansion in the sky, a mansion that is not attached to the earth. This is a home that has no roots. The writer/prophet has no roots.  And while Elvis did own property, he did not choose to stay in one place for very long. He liked Las Vegas, and spent the last nine years of his life on tour with brief stays at Graceland. So he was a nomad, sort of ….

“For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion in the sky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and silences of night.” (34)

There is a struggle within many religious traditions between people who think they have the Truth with a capital “T,” and those who understand that there are many truths.   The  TRUTH People believe that there is only one Truth, and many Christian traditions fall into this category. Elvis explored many truths, and I do not know whether he would label any of the religions he studied as Truth. Certainly he loved his musical heritage and experiences he had within many different types of Christian organizations, and those memories sustained him. I think he would have gravitated toward the following quotes,

“Say not, ‘I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”  Say not, ‘I have found the path of the soul.”‘ Say rather, ‘I have met the soul walking upon my path. For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a  lotus of countless petals.” (55)

And again he writes, “And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn. Your daily life is your temple and your religion. Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.”

When the prophet begins to leave the people he looks at the ship in which he will sail and says,

“I am ready. The stream has reached the sea, and once more the Great Mother holds her son against her breast.”

This last statement may have been written by Gibran as his own epitaph.

Elvis would have loved the above phrase because it would make him think of his mother who left him when he was so young. Throughout all of the book Gibran refers to the Divine as God, but here we have a reference to the Divine being a female. I think that reading The Prophet would have supported the kind of life, ethics, and lifestyle that Elvis had chosen. It differed with his past, but also in a way, it allowed his past to comfort him.

Complete copy of The Prophet.

Quotations are from:  Khalil Gibran, The Prophet. New York: Alfred A. Kopf, 1923.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Elvis Presley Studied Alice Bailey to Find Health

Mind over Matter is the Key to Health says Bailey!

From mid-career until the end of his life, Elvis read voraciously.  It was his link to the minds of people and religions he wanted to bring into his life.  Those books were his friends and companions.  The Memphis Mafia who surrounded him, did not understand his thirst for knowledge, and his need for a discussion on an intellectual level.  His wife actually made him burn his books. He read hundreds, perhaps, thousands of works, and this blog will highlight many of those works. One of those authors was Alice Bailey.  Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about her:

Alice Bailey

Alice Bailey

Alice Ann Bailey (June 16, 1880 – December 15, 1949) was a writer and theosophist in occult teachings, esoteric psychology and healing, astrological and other philosophic and religious themes. Bailey was born as Alice LaTrobe Bateman, in Manchester, England. She moved to the United States in 1907, where she spent most of her life as a writer and teacher.

Some of the words in this short bio of Alice Bailey are power-charged.  Words such as “occult,” and “esoteric” can make our hearts beat very fast.  We are afraid of anything to do with works labeled in such a matter.  May I explain?  In every culture, there is a dominate religion.  That religion seeks to keep its “market share” of seekers and believers.  The way they keep those seekers in the “fold” is to demean and marginalize other religions.  If the dominate religion can put “the fear of God” into you regarding other religions, then they have successfully kept you for searching out other religions.

Example of Pentecostal Church

Example of Pentecostal Church

Elvis loved his Pentecostal roots.  He loved the music and the community it created, but it did not answer many of the questions that he had about his own life.  So, he crossed the fence, into territory that was labeled “occult or esoteric.”  Christianity itself had been given these labels early in its own existence.  In order to preserve a religion, sometimes people have to practice their religion in secret.  Esoteric, literally means, “secret or hidden.”  The word “occult” has also been given a bad “rap.”  If you find a definition of it, it includes magic and mystical beliefs.  These are beliefs that differ with a dominate or main religion of a culture. They are outside mainstream beliefs.

Throughout history people who differed with the power of the dominate religion often forfeited their lives.  It may have been a good thing to be labeled “occult or esoteric”  because it kept you from being destroyed by the dominate religion.  (People knew to keep everything to themselves because it was dangerous to differ with the main religion.) There is not enough time in this post to discuss violence and the monotheistic traditions.

Elvis risked his own career by studying these works.  He knew it, but he had to pursue questions that plagued him every day of his life.

Alice Bailey’s works, written between 1919 and 1949, describe a wide-ranging system of thought covering such topics as how spirituality relates to the solar system, meditation, healing, spiritual psychology, the destiny of nations, and prescriptions for society in general.

Elvis Presley Collection

Elvis Presley Collection

It is easy to speculate as to possible reasons as to why Elvis was drawn to Alice Bailey’s work. Elvis had many physical problems and diseases that he could not control or overcome. He was so young, why was his body breaking down? To discover the secrets of the origins of diseases, or to find a key to health, could change the course of his life. He was drowning in his work, and his body was failing him. And, as I have discussed in For the Love of Elvis, many suggest that he had some type of bone cancer. Elvis probably knew that he was dying, but no one around him understood his physical suffering.

As we will learn shortly, Bailey listened to an “Ascended Master,” a being who is ancient, has lived many lives, and knows more than most people. Elvis often wondered about his own life, and the riches and fame he gained. Was he a chosen one too? Could he have been an Ascended Master?

Alice Bailey’s work is reported to be a transcript from an Ascended Master, Djwhal Khal. Madame Blavatsky, one of the founders of Theosophy, conversed with her masters, and Alice Bailey, who once was a Theosophist, found her own Master that differed with mainline Theosophy. “Esoteric Healing. A Treatise on the Seven Rays,” draws upon many ancient religious traditions. I find traces of Buddhism, religions of India (Hinduism), and T(D)aoism in Bailey’s attempt to articulate reasons for diseases within people. She tried desperately to bring her readers out of what she called,  “rabid” Christianity,  into living more freely.

For Bailey, people needed to control their emotions, desires, and cravings. They needed to seek to free themselves, so that air can penetrate their bodies. The origins of disease begins with karma, or the body or life that we have inherited. Certain groups of people are born with certain types of diseases. Other diseases can be traced to living in a community with other people. Bailey believes in harmony and searching for it. Her basic view is that of a sannyasin (Hindu) who abandons everything to search for and experience with the Divine.   In both Buddhism and Hinduism, students practice control over matter.  Some sects within Buddhism advocate finding the “emptiness” or “the nothingness” or the “sunyata” as a way to find health.

Taking Care of Business

Taking Care of Business

If someone is ill, the disease will end in their death, and then they have a chance at rebirth and a new body, or reincarnation. “Death, if we could but realize it, is one of our most practical activities. We have died many times and shall die again and again, ”  says Bailey(437) “The last of the minor centers fade out in order to be resolved into the totality of the etheric substance.” (46)  The cause of disease is certainly not “sin.” The real culprit is disharmony inside and outside of the body, according to Bailey.

While Bailey’s astral vocabulary and view of disease is simplistic by modern standards, she did pass on the Asian belief that the mind can control the body.   (Check out Mary Baker Eddy on this concept also.) This  takes me to the Middle Path within Buddhism, and the seeker who meditates for days on end, in both Buddhism and Hindu practices. Her emphasis on balance also evokes both Confucian and Taoist belief in the Yin and Yang, the opposing and unifying aspects of the universe. Together they bring harmony to the universe.

And Elvis may have found some relief from his illnesses, as he read Bailey by disassociating his mind and body. Control may have been a way that allowed him to sing longer than most normal people who were ill. Perhaps it helped with his constant pain?  Maybe she helped him to understand his purpose in life?

Ultimately Bailey’s point of view is nihilistic. Nihilism teaches that there is really nothing out there.  The emptiness that the student seeks is really the death of the living creature. So Bailey looks at the end of life as a way to save it. Reincarnation will give you a new body. So to heal your body, you have to extinguish it.

One wonders if there could ever be another Elvis in any life?

Notes are from:  Alice Bailey, Esoteric Healing, New York: Lucis Publishing Company, (1953), 1977.

My apologies for the lengthy hiatus.  I decided to re-design the interior of my book Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues.

Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues

Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues is published!

May I share an excerpt from the book with you? 

(Click link below  to soar to the Amazon site.)

Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues

Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues

Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues

One afternoon while hiking the hills of North Carolina, in July of 1987, I stumbled across an old map with the town of “Gilreath” on it. “Gilreath” is my mother’s family name. That small-unexpected discovery captured my imagination for almost three decades. That old map eventually propelled me to the hills of Kentucky, and back to the roots of my ancestors. Who were these people who risked their lives settling the frontier?

Touching the Mind of the Universe

Have you ever visited a place for the first time and felt as if you were at home? It happened to me the first time while visiting the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. They were featuring a Native American exhibit punctuated with the music of Carlos Nikai. The music seemed familiar, hauntingly so.  The dreaming world was my world. There were exhibits of weaving, corn husking, making molasses, sewing, cooking, and preserving food. I realized as I walked through the exhibit, that these photographs and paintings were living scenes of stories told to me by my Kentucky relatives, and experienced by my own parents.

Ova and Joe Gilreath

Ove and Joe Gilreath My Grandparents

My father was half-Cherokee from the rolling mountains of Tennessee. He and my mother were raised on rural farms in a surprisingly similar fashion as the Southwestern Native Americans, although my parents moved away from their roots. Nikai’s new age twist to Native American music seemed to capture the vibrations and sounds of the woods I knew so well in Kentucky. Without words, the notes seem to mimic the fearful and fearless nature of the whispering pines. Within his flute, I heard the strange off-key (minor) songs sung in piano-less churches and the guttural mourning that underlies the daily existence of people who claim their heritage from the mountains.

As I began my research, I hoped to find a kindly ancestor with whom I could claim a synonymous life. Did I believe that my spirit had lived earlier in a forgotten relative? Was I looking for someone like me, so that I could claim the heritage of Aunt or Uncle, Cousin, or Grandfather as my own personal legacy? Could it be that I, too, was on a perilous journey, hoping to create a better, a new, happier life for myself — just like my ancestors?

The Dream

Gilreath Family making molasses from Sugar Cane

Gilreath Family making molasses from Sugar Cane

Dreams often keep people alive and give them a foundation to hope for their tomorrows. Rubem Alves calls this the “presence of the absent” (What is Religion? p, 6). Many settlers during the 18th and 19th centuries made their way west through the Cumberland Pass into the Appalachian Mountains. Into this land, later to be called McCreary County, came settlers from North Carolina. Some came to escape poverty, slavery, a feud, or the law. Others came to escape the oppressive life of service to landowners or merchants, and still a few came to hunt, but most came to farm and to find a pot of gold. Among those adventurers who forged their way into the wilderness were a people by the name of Gilreath. The Gilreaths settled in a remote region of Kentucky now known as Pine Knot, Marsh Creek (sometimes spelled Marshes), Jellico Creek, Strunk, and Holly Hill in McCreary County. They even crossed the county line into Williamsburg.

In 1859 William Matt and Sarah Ann Gilreath traded their wagon and mules for two small houses and approximately 90 acres of land on Marsh Creek. The records at Whitley County Courthouse show that Matt purchased the land for $25.00. The original two-story house sat on a rise overlooking a small valley.   The front porch view included another mountain billowing up out of the creek bed. The land included half of that mountain in front of the house, and almost half of the mountain behind the house. With little money, their good health, and a vision of a better life, they managed to carve out an existence in the wilderness.

According to records at Pleasant Run Church in Holly Hill, Kentucky, Benjamin and Mary Gilreath settled in the valley. Their descendents donated property to build that church. The stones marking their graves at Pleasant Run Cemetery read, “Benjamin Gilreath, Mary Gilreath, The first Gilreaths who came to this country. They came from N.C. to Pleasant Run about 1810.”

Homers big house

Old Gilreath Homestead in Holly Hill

Their religion was self-reliance, innovation, and an innate desire to be free of government. Some claimed they were of the Methodist faith. This family persisted in the face of strip-mining, floods, disease, little formal education, and poverty. In the struggle to survive, learning how to “cipher” words held little priority. Consequently very little written information about these settlers in South Central Kentucky has survived.

Just a couple of miles down the road from Pleasant Run Cemetery on highway 92 in Marsh Creek lived a Gilreath whose ancestry dated back to the early days of Pleasant Run church. Their great grandson Homer Gilreath resided on the same 88-acre farm purchased by his grandfather William Matt Gilreath in 1865, and in the same house until his death in l997.

Two of his sisters Myrtle Gilreath Baird (1916-2004) and Mary Gilreath Selvidge (l922-2010) remember living on the mountain during the l920’s and l930’s. Myrtle stayed in the mountains and married a farmer. She lived on top of a mountain in Strunk, Kentucky. Neither she nor her deceased husband, Joe, never thought of learning how to drive. There was no need. In those days they could walk down the hill to the local store. Today, the closest grocery store is at least 8 miles away.

 Wishes Do Come True

Myrtle and Mary

Aunt Myrtle and my mom, Mary

The foundation for this book is built upon evidence discovered in the county court houses of Whitley and McCreary Counties, in the graveyards that know no boundaries, in scores of oral history tapes that were never transcribed and printed, in the collection of the McCreary County library, in the archives of the McCreary County Record, in the Stearns Museum, in the recollections of my “kin,” and in the lives of Mary Melvina Gilreath Selvidge and Myrtle Gilreath Baird. Along the way, as I tell the stories, I will gently open the door to the possibilities of “Life Everlasting.”

Pleasant Run Church

Take a walk with me up the hill to Pleasant Run Church and the Cemetery.

The Mountains and Me

There is a song that I have in my head that never goes away. It is a song of the pines and the wind coming through the valley. It pulls me south to the mountains, to Jellico and Marsh Creeks, to the voices and places that filled my childhood. There is quietness in those meandering waters and soulful people. I understand their mountain spirits.

I understand their pain, a pain born out of hope for a better life–a better tomorrow. It is a mystical sadness that finds itself at odds with the modern world that seems to have lost sight of its own humanity. For through the research for this book I have learned that people in McCreary County (Holly Hill, Strunk, Stearns, Whitley City, Pine Knot, and more) value each other above all else. And how do I know it? Because the first thing they ask you isn’t, “How much do you make?” or “Where do you live?” or “How big is your house?” or “What kind of car do you drive?” They ask, “Who are you, and who are your people?”

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

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Jeff Bergen is Elvis!

Jeff Bergen at Knuckleheads

Jeff Bergens is Elvis!

Jeff Bergens hams it up!

What a treat to hear and see Jeff Bergen impersonating Elvis Presley at Knuckleheads.  He appears the fourth Friday of every month in Kansas City.  What better way to spend a Friday evening than listening to Elvis tunes?  Elvis seems to come alive as you watch and hear him sing!

Jeff is a one-man show.  His concert goes on for hours without a break.  He never gives up.  His voice is remarkable, having trained in opera.  Many of the long-time Elvis favorites sound better when Jeff sings them.  (I did not know that anyone could sing better than Elvis?) He is very articulate and you can hear all of the words of every song.

Knuckleheads

Knuckleheads

Elvis recorded over 700 tunes and Jeff, apparently, knows all of them.  His vocal range is remarkable and he can sing a Rock ‘n’ Roll song as easily as one of the tender Country Western tunes.  He even hits those wonderful high notes that send you reeling back in time to Elvis.

 

Glitzy Sign at Knuckleheads

Glitzy Sign at Knuckleheads

The audience loves him. He sang a special tune for “Mary,” and  will sing requested songs,  if you email him ahead of time.  It was very apparent that he has regulars.  Often he would say, “that is a  ‘pretty song’,” and the audience would chime back “pretty, pretty, pretty.”  They are in love with him. And he deserves it!

Jeff Bergens

Jeff Bergens

Impersonators bring back to life the people we love.  There is no finer compliment to an artist than to have someone attempt to imitate him or her.  The greatness of Elvis will always be there, and Jeff captures and becomes that greatness.  Don’t miss his next show!

 

 

Jeff is Elvis!

Jeff is Elvis!

 

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

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Elvis searched for Happiness, and so do We!

The Search for Happiness

Searching for Happiness

Searching for Happiness

The search for happiness often ends up at the door to organized religions.

Why do people think that a religion will bring them happiness? What is happiness, anyway? Everyone defines that term in a different way. Some people think that they must “feel” happy to be happy. Others think that by doing something or accomplishing something, that would bring happiness. Some say that it is a healthy state of being. Some think that money will buy happiness yet others think that giving money away brings happiness. Every person must define the word “happiness” for himself or herself.

Religion can provide a community and identity for people. I have always envied people who could go anywhere in the world and find a religious community in which they were comfortable. (Of course, I am being idealistic here, because being a member of a community automatically means that there would be different points of view.) I hired an electrician once who told me that I should join a church. He said that he belonged to two and it was good for business. Religious communities can be a real source of practical and emotional support. Many people are lonely and a religious community serves that interpersonal need of communication with others.

People wear clothing or jewelry or employ symbols so that you know with whom they are associated. They are really shouting “I am a Jew, a Muslim, of the Amish, or Wiccan.” Or some religions refrain from wearing makeup, or cutting their hair, so that they make a statement about who they are and their beliefs. Most people need to be a part of “something,” — to have an identity.

Elvis Collectibles

Elvis Collectibles

Religions answer the basic questions in life that are sometimes unanswerable, such as; what is the meaning of life? Who am I? Is there a God/Divine? What is God or the Gods like? How should I live my life? How did humans find their way to earth? Is the Divine in my life now, or in history, or on vacation most of the time? Can the Divine help me?  Will the Divine make me rich or give me advantage over my friends?

Sometimes people think that if they can obtain help from the Divine, their careers and fortunes will be better. Some religious leaders preach that if you are a member of their group, the Divine will shine on you with dollar bills.

Like Elvis, many people want to change their lives, but seem incapable of doing it on their own. They search out a religious community to support them in their change. Others hope for a measure of security in their lives. They want to be protected and cared for and they find it in a community.

Some believe they are perfect and look for a religious community who is perfect so that they can fashion a life of perfectness together. These people often create dogmatic and legalistic rules which they impose upon those around them. For them achieving perfection is following the rules without exception. And following those rules– being perfect– is the ultimate happiness.

Others seek out religions in their quests for social justice or equality at home and around the globe. Large organizations foster peace movements and feed and clothe the world. They bring medical help to those in need and many want to be a part of this life-saving effort.

There is research that suggests that belonging to certain religious communities produces both physical and mental health and a sense of well-being. But there are also studies that suggest that religions encase and imprison people and lead to violence and injustice as well as oppression.

Importance of Religion

Elvis Teddy Bears

Elvis Teddy Bears

In my many years as a professor, I found that other academics often wanted to downplay the influence of religions in our lives. (This was certainly the case with those that surrounded Elvis too.) They wanted to ignore it or place it on a back burner. They were intelligent beings and intelligent beings did not have anything to do with superstitions. It was difficult for them to confront the reality that religions influence us almost every day of our lives, whether we are within or outside of a religious tradition or community. Then there were other academics that argued that the only religion that should be taught on campus was their religion. Those responses to discussing religion(s) are typical. People don’t know what to do with the topic of religions, because they don’t know enough about it to discuss it intelligently.

Religion could be the single most important influence in a person’s or a nation’s life. You might be a Roman Catholic or a closet Atheist, and you might deny the effects of Religion, but all the same, it is always there. You can’t pick up a newspaper or a book or a magazine without finding evidence of the influence of religion on our lives.

 

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

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Religions Become the Friends of Elvis

Why write a book about Elvis and Religions?

Statue of Elvis

Statue of Elvis in Memphis

This blog will begin the long journey of creating a book about Elvis and the relationship he had with many different types of religions.  It will not contain everything that will be in the book about his trek through many faiths, but it will open a window for readers to determine if they want to read the entire book.

Many people today are still captivated by Elvis. They place him squarely within their own religious faith. And it is true that Elvis was raised within the Pentecostal and Assembly of God traditions. He never stepped away from those roots. But he also began his own search for understanding found in other religions. He would never assert that his childhood faith was the only true faith. He discovered many and varied religious traditions. He questioned himself and the world and the purpose for his life. He wondered why such wealth and success came to him when he was so young. Could there have been a divine purpose in all that happened to him?

People do not know nor do they believe that Elvis investigated and read within many religious traditions. There are several lists cataloguing what he read. We cannot explore all of these books. But, in the following pages we will explore some of those books,  and give possible reasons as to why he would explore that religious tradition and what benefit he may have obtained by studying it.

Why study other religions?

Temple in Thailand

Temple in Thailand

Why do people study books about religions? Most of us do not have the time, money, or energy to travel to meet the founders or officials of religious traditions or the countries in which they reside. We must read if we are to understand the religious traditions. Books can become friends when no one around you thinks the way you do. Books can open the door to the past where you can find people with whom to talk. Yes, you cannot actually talk with them but you can discover a soul-mate (so to speak) in the past.

Books are Friends You have Not Met

May I give an example from my own life?  Early in my career, I was studying in an environment where females were debased and degraded. While I was accepted into an academic program (because a Federal Law demanded non-discrimination), the professors had no conception of equity, nor did they value the contribution of females. They had never thought of studying the history of females because females had no worth to them.

Selvidge's Dissertation

Selvidge’s Dissertation

As I began my research on religious topics, I discovered a group of men and women (in books) who thought the way I did about females, who were progressive in their interpretation of religious texts, and were also professors. Discovering these minds, these people, these writings, became a source of support for me as I walked through my studies toward a Ph.D. Their work actually gave me the courage to create and defend my own work.

I am sure that Elvis’ journey was similar. His questions were no doubt different. But the people and points of view and beliefs he discovered in those books were so important to him that he carried books with him wherever he traveled. The voices in those books became his friends and comforted him when most of those around him could not possibly understand how he felt, and certainly were not capable of discussing anything about religions with him.

Ireland Interview

Ireland Interview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge, 2015

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Elvis and a New Website about HIM!

 New Book on Elvis takes on his Abusers!

New Book, "For the Love of Elvis"

New Book, “For the Love of Elvis”

For the Love of Elvis” was published in 2014 and is selling in many countries around the world.  You can purchase it as a Kindle and a paperback on Amazon.com. I spent three years researching Elvis and eventually taught a college course  entitled, “Elvis.  Memphis Messiah.”

The book takes a very different look at Elvis and defends his life against the accusers and family who used him for their own personal gain.  It is an uplifting book that you will find easy to read.

New Book, "Igor and the Red Elvises"

New Book, “Igor and the Red Elvises”

Most recently I finished a book about the Red Elvises, entitled Igor and the Red Elvises.

The Red Elvises are a  dance band from the Soviet Union, formerly Ukraine and Russia. They have been pounding out original  music for twenty years and travel the globe. Their home is now in Venice Beach, CA.

The Red Elvises were a very successful cultural band called Limpopo, having performed in movies, commercials, and winning Ed McMahon’s International Star Search.  As the story goes, one night  Igor had a dream, and Elvis told him to start singing and playing Rock ‘n’ Roll.  The rest is history!

International Star Search

International Star Search

My hope is that in the the near future, readers and booksellers will be able to purchase books written about Elvis, items related to Elvis, and the new book Igor and the Red Elvises published by Roseville Publications on Amazon.com

The first episode in my new book about Elvis’ quest for a better life through religions will be posted in about one week.

Unfortunately I am having trouble with images with this new hosting site and hopefully will be able to fix it soon.  They also will not allow a plug-in Map that I created where you clicked on an area of the United States and it would give you facts about Elvis.  I will have to re-create this in another software so, it will be forthcoming.

Charlie was more than a PET!

Charlie was a Member of our Family!

Charlie and Socks

Charlie helping Tom put on his socks!

A good friend sent a card “In the loss of your pet!”  What a wonderful thing to do.  But was Charlie ONLY a pet?  Let me tell you a little bit more about Charlie

Charlie had quite a personality and was the smartest dog I have ever known.  When we would begin to get ready to go on vacation, Charlie knew we were leaving.  Charlie knew that we were going to leave and protested the suitcases on the bed in the bedroom by barking and, then,  becoming lethargic.

On the way to the kennel or to the vet, Charlie knew when it was going to happen, he would howl out his brains.  His little lips would quiver so that you would think he was being tortured.  He did not want to leave the house but, then, he was a runner!  It does not make sense.

At Stockton Lake

At Stockton Lake

When Charlie was young, we trained him to sit and shake hands.  He shook hands with his left paw.  (That should tell you something about Charlie.) Later, he learned “wait.”  But all we had to do was talk to Charlie and he knew what to do. Caretakers at the kennel marveled that Charlie was like talking to a human being.

When he wanted something from me, he would come and sit in front of me and try to talk to me.  I would go through a list of things that he might want.  When I hit the right one, he would jump up and down.  He did not bark.  He made different types of noises and moved his lips.  Even on the day he died he was trying to tell me something, but I did not understand him.  I can still see his crumpled up lips talking to me.

Relaxing Charlie

Relaxing Charlie

Charlie knew where everything in a room was located.  If something was different, new, or out of place, the first thing he would do would be to go over to whatever was changed.  What a nose he had!  There is so much more to tell about Charlie, but this is enough.  I am may be  boring you.

 

 

We took his collar and hung it on a wall in our house.  Charlie is gone, but he will always be with us.

 

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.