Roosevelt Sykes Explains His Philosophy

Roosevelt Sykes explains his philosophy of “Honey” to a young John Fahey.

As recounted in Fahey’s book, “How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life”.

“Well, Jawn, I think that it is time that you learned about

“Honey, what’s


got to do with show biz?” I asked.

“Honey’s got a lot to do with everything that is important in life, Jawn. Not just show biz, but everything.”

“Well,” I said, “OK, Roosevelt. If you say so. So tell me about


if you want to. I don’t understand what you are talking about now, but I”m sure once you explain it to me I will understand it.”

“Oh yes, Jawn,” Roosevelt said, “you will understand it. And it will help you all through life. Just ordinary, plain


From now on you’ve got to learn to think about


It’s very important. If you’re going to stay in show biz for a long time, you’ve got to learn about


“Now, Jawn,” he went on, “as you know


is sweet, right?”
“Oh, yes,” I replied.

And, another thing,” he said, “it makes everybody happy and makes everybody fell good when they swallow some


“Right?” he asked.

“Right,” I answered, wondering what in the world he was getting around to.

But, I knew he wasn’t crazy, and I knew he knew a lot, so I didn’t say anything.


I just listened to him.

And also the way he was repeating the word honey so much was kind of hypnotic.

You know what I mean?

But I knew he was “alright,” so I kept a passive attitude.

Anyway, he went on: “What you’ve got to learn, Jawn is to think about


And think about how sweet it is, and how good for you it is, and how nice and smooth it is, and how wonderful it is, and how good it is to you, and how wonderful it is for anybody who eats any of it. It makes them happy and it makes you happy. It’s wonderful stuff, Jawn, isn’t it?”

“Well,” I said, “now that you mention it, I guess it is, Roosevelt. I just never thought about



“That’s OK, Jawn. You are beginning to learn the secret about


You are already doing it, so before long you’ll know all about it and how great it is and how you can use it by just thinking about it.”

“OK, fine.” I said.

Sykes: “For a while, it’s very important to practice thinking about


Set a little time aside every day and just sit somewhere quiet and think about


And before you go to bed at night always think about


at least for a few minutes. It will help you sleep.”

Me: “Well, I’ll try it, Roosevelt. But only because you said so and I trust you. Because I still don’t understand why


is so important.”

Sykes: “Oh, you’ll understand it very soon. You’ll see why it is so important. Don’t worry. Now, listen very carefully, Jawn. Once you learn to think about honey and think about it very deeply then whenever somebody comes around and says something unpleasant, what you do is you start thinking about


If you do then you can turn the conversation around 180 degrees and the painful person will be on the end of the stick and not you. And furthermore it’s your stick and not his.”

Me: “Yeah, I think I’m beginning to get you.”

Sykes: “See, by thinking about honey rather than thinking about what a jerk the other guy is, or the situation is, or whatever, then you will find yourself treating him as if he was doing you a big favor. And once the guy starts thinking that you are grateful to him and that he is, in fact, doing you a favor, then you have got control of the situation. You are in power. You are in the driver’s seat. Not him, but you. And that is the whole point, isn’t it?”

Me: “Well, yes, Roosevelt, now that I think about it I guess that is the whole point. By thinking about


and talking nice to the guy, you switch things around, and you’re the real boss.”

Sykes: “That’s it, Jawn. You got it. But now don’t get confused. We’re talking about feelings mostly and how to keep feeling good and on top of things that you don’t want to do. The bad guy can make you do things. He can make you do things that you don’t want to do. But if you turn it into a situation where it looks and feels to both of you like you are doing the guy a big favor–if he can’t control the way you feel, but you can–then you are the one who really wins, Jawn. Even if the other guy doesn’t know it. You see what I mean, Jawn?”

Me: “I think so. You’re telling me that the really important thing is not what I do but what I feel. If I have possession over my feelings, that’s the important thing. Is that what you mean, Roosevelt?”

Sykes: “Yes, Jawn, that’s exactly what I mean. You see, Jawn, it doesn’t really matter what somebody does to your body, or what they make you do with your body. That isn’t really important because, Jawn, you aren’t your body, are you?”

Me: “I’m not sure what you mean, Roosevelt.”

Sykes: “I mean, there’s something else over there, something else besides your body, and that’s who answers when I call ‘Jawn.’ That body doesn’t answer. It belongs to the real you. And the real you is not your body. See what I mean?”

Me: “I think so, Roosevelt. Yeah, I see. There’s this body over here but the me, I am something else.”

Sykes: “Right, Jawn. That’s what I mean. And look. As long as you can prevent this bad guy who comes along, and believe me there’s lots of bad guys gonna come along, right?”

Me: “Yeah, I gotcha.”

Sykes: “As long as you remember that you are not the same thing as that body, and as long as you can think about honey, then you can always control how you feel. Not somebody else, but you. And that’s how you win the game, Jawn. That’s the only way. And the important thing about


is that it enables you to keep feeling good regardless about what the other guy says or does. See–look, John. Some badmouth comes up to you and says something unpleasant so you start thinking about


So you go along with what he says, you agree with him and you thank him because the whole time you were thinking about the many, many good properties of


And that way you can change the balance of power…. Now, in an extreme situation, where this, what I told you, doesn’t work, then what you do is you start talking about


Yes. Tell the guy all about


and how much you like it, and about the many good qualities it has. Now, the guy may think you’re crazy, but that’s OK. You still got him under control.”

Me: “Gosh, Roosevelt, I think what you’re telling me will work. Next time something I don’t like happens, why I’ll just start thinking and maybe talking about


Sykes: “Yes, and Jawn there’s more to it than what I told you so far. You’ve got to realize that by putting things back in natural order or harmony, that you are doing this other guy a big favor. Because you are making him feel good, too. That way you both win. So, you talk like this, Jawn: Why, of course, I’ll help you. How nice of you to ask me. How nice of you to think so highly of me that you ask me to help. Sure. I’d be delighted.

Me: “Gosh. I think you got something there, Roosevelt.”

Sykes: “I sure do. And the whole time what you’ve got to do is imagine that you have a great big pot of


And what you are really saying is, Here, have some


I’ve got lots of it. There’s plenty to go around. And another thing you do is you make yourself feel like you’re made of honey. And so is the other guy. In fact, everything is made out of


At this point, Roosevelt started to laugh quite agreeably.

And so did I.

Me: “It seems like thinking about it is funny, too.”

Sykes: “Right, Jawn. Thinking about


is funny. And not only that but it rhymes, you see,


Get it?”

And they I started laughing because it was so funny to think about everything being made out of


Sykes: “Why, Jawn, when you get right down to it, there is


everywhere. There is no place you can go where there isn’t any


And not only that but there is


in your voice. It’s in your mind. Why it’s everywhere. And isn’t that funny?”

Now we were both laughing like two madmen but it didn’t matter and neither one of us cared because, you see, it seemed like everything in the universe had turned into


And this seemed very, very funny, and we kept on laughing and laughing for maybe fifteen minutes, and then when we tried to stop laughing we couldn’t stop laughing because everything seemed so funny.