Saturday, December 4, 2010

Higher Power

Sponsor homework: Who/what/how is your Higher Power? Describe.

A lot of AA is based in a "higher power" with the underlying idea being that alcoholics aren't able to control their drinking or stay away from the addiction without trusting in something other than themselves or other people. I'm not ready to do research on the program to dispute its process or history, controversies, or failures. I don't care about that right now. Right now, I care about staying sober, because last week was struggle in a bottle and that didn't make me happy, and because - as I'll weed through at a future time - my past was trapped in that bottle and my addiction really directed a lot of my choices and actions, a lot of which didn't make me happy. But, no, AA is not Christian-based or religion brainwashing. If anything, AA and its creators were lazy. They went with the old standard of "God 'as we understand him'". It's that last part on which the current AA - and I - agree.

But I've already been in touch with the idea of a higher power. I was raised Lutheran and when I turned 18 I told my father that I didn't want to go to church anymore. "What about just coming to sing the hymns?" "Dad, I don't agree with the words." So, he told me that every Sunday I'd have to go to a different religious location, learn, and come home and we'd discuss. (Very diplomatic of him.) I tried the Universalist Unitarians my first free Sunday. Bo-ring. And we really didn't attempt more after that.

But I've always been fascinated with what compels people to gravitate to religion, how religions have been formed, how they've evolved, and what principles they try to convey (and how those are often distorted by human interpretation or manipulation). Granted, I haven't immersed myself so deeply as to take a course or read all of the Bible or the Koran or what have you. But I've skimmed the surface or the foundations of the major ones. I tend to believe that the basic foundations of each one are pretty good guiding principles: don't fuck with other people so they won't fuck with you (aka do unto others as you want back to you), try not to kill, try not to maim, give love, think of the future sons and daughters of the earth, give thanks. That's like pretty much all of them there.

Building on that, I've identified with a lot of Buddhist ideas concerning karma, reincarnation, some of the suffering (craving often does lead to suffering for me in so many ways or another), and the noble truths. (Note, I said "identified" not practiced per se.) Then, there's the Taoist ideas of simplicity and harmony. The great dharma and deities of Hinduism. The amazing rituals of the Yoruba religion. The connectivity with earth and the sky found in Native American traditions, along with the totem guides I carry with me. The iconography in Catholicism with Mary as powerful producer of the Savior - not to mention the kick ass candles you can buy in Latino stores. The ritual of walk-about and spirituality within animals and nature in the Aborigine culture. Paganism and the celebration of the moon. The "Be Here Now" philosophy. And all the great leaders produced from all of these beliefs and faiths. Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, the Great Mother(s), etc...

All of these I have taken and melded into my own beliefs. But where have they gone, these directions to my life? Well, that's for another time. Today, it's the quest to find the connection, the encompassing orb, the guide, the cradled hand, the orientation, the whisper, and the light.

Although, as I ponder it, I think I melded all of those ideas and principles and pathways into me, which led me to think that I was my own god in a sense. I had all these tools and decided that I would wield them - alone. For, as we are born so will we die: alone. And I have believed that for a long time. And it has benefited me greatly. I have become very comfortable with myself, with being alone, with making decisions, with guiding myself. But I also became my own superhero, my own judge of what is right and wrong, when to lie or when to give, when to help another, when to accept others, and how much of all of these. Perhaps, that god-like feeling imploded in on me, in on the god.

But I digress (pun intended), and have strayed and wandered off. Literally and figuratively.

So, now to focus.

When my sponsor asked me to contemplate and meditate on my Higher Power (maybe not her exact words, but I know what she meant), I came home, boiled some water, poured some tea, smoked a cigarette, and found myself where I have found myself daily and nightly over the past 7.5 months. In my kitchen, staring out the window at the beautiful magnolia tree, still green leaved in December.

(photo taken: 6/14/2010)

I have always been taken by (and pulled to) trees. I remember going on Volksmarches with my dad in the forests of Germany. The tall pines in Italy, when my sister and I were tossing a frisbee and experienced an earthquake - looking up at the pines swaying. Hiding in the forest at night, playing truth or dare with some grade school kids, when we were caught and I was grounded because my parents thought I'd been kidnapped after dark. Watching my father saddled in a harness high up in a tree, chainsawing off branches, as I listed to "Little Red Caboose" on my pre-school record player. The thick density of the tropical jungle at Iguazu. The trees crashing in the wind of a night thunderstorm, while I moped on the golf course in Oklahoma. And then, the ultimate commune when I dosed in the hills of Wisconsin. The beauty of snow-covered branches in Minneapolis. The dry trees parted for logging roads in the hills near La Alberca, Spain (when I went off on my own for a weekend to hike and be at peace). The olive groves of Israel. The palm trees of the coast of Spain. The lush green covering Wisconsin. The weeping willows on my grandparents' farm in Minnesota. The ancient trees of Europe. The amazing autumn of DC.

They are my symbol of my higher power. They are my Shel Silverstein's "Giving Tree".

Trees pull the life blood of the world from the ground. They are grounded. They bend to the winds and rebound with the sun. They bleed sap and shelter without question. They hold strong in the storm and dance in the summer. They shed their leaves to provide protection to the smallest creatures.

And whoever or whatever made them could have produced them differently. Their construction could have been more like gigantic pussy willows, breaking at the slightest breath. They could have been born with man-eating jaws or Edward Scissorhands branches (and some are). Mother Earth, or God, or Allah, or Science could have let the trees down with their termination at the end of the Dinosaur Age. But they are life. And they are alive.

My higher power made these oxygen-providers, the intricate system that they are. My higher power created their composition and style, so that the great teachers of all time have been able to hold court and provide instruction to the learners of the ages. My higher power directed the trees to center in the dance of the witches, to grow under canopies of their elders, to lean together and form entwined branches, to age in broad circles, to tell the stories of the decades, to fall ill under a bug's menace, to crumble and break for the warmth of the first man and woman. My higher power wove photosynthesis and fruit. My higher power forced the roots up to crack and tear at sidewalks, which we thought were stronger than our own He-Mans. My higher power has watched the trees disappear and beamed on those crazy enough to take up camp to protect them. My higher power can make or break a tree with the smallest seed and the most firey shock of lightning. And can rain down life blood and can reign in chaos.

It will be to this power - and none other - that I will turn if I find myself without the path through the woods. If I can't see the forest for the trees.

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