it’s my party

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A friend asked this morning, “How are you getting along these days?”

“Just fine and dandy, couldn’t be better.”

I lied.  But I truly could not put a finger on what I was feeling.  Where was my head floating?  Was I sad, depressed, melancholic?  Or was I just lazy and unmotivated?  Then, those thoughts that help us decide whether to get up and function or just lay around accomplishing nothing, yes those thoughts that are familiar to everyone, swirled through my brain and before I knew what was happening, I was engaged in a full throttle emotional crisis. What in tarnation is wrong with me?

I ran a few more words through my brain.  Nope, not that.  No, that’s not the problem.  Well, maybe I’m just over-tired.  Yes, I could be playing the control game again, I’m very good at that.  And then like a bolt of lightning it hit me.  I recognized what the problem was.

Irrelevance.  I have another birthday next month and I realized how irrelevant I have become to society in year 2018.  This old caveman from the 1960s simply does not like 2018.  Oh sure, girl scouts still try to help me across the street and 50 year-old men call me sir.

“Sir can I help you, may I get that for you, sir?”

“Bug off, sonny, I ain’t dead yet.”

They are just being nice, but they don’t need me for anything.  They still have a purpose in this world.  My life has become….well, jaded and irrelevant.   I want to go back to 1968 when life had meaning, when the future was bright and promising.  Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix cranked me up every morning and the Doors put me to sleep every night.  Life was good.

I don’t own a smart phone because I refuse to have a device that can make me swear like a sailor.  I watch ads on TV for services and electronics about which I haven’t a clue.  What’s that thingamajig for?  My vehicle is a 22 year-old pickup truck.  It has a key to open the door and start it, and a cassette player.  The dashboard shows speed, RPMs, gasoline, oil, and voltage.  Yes, they are the old fashioned gauges just like pop had on his car.  If I should ever need to buy another vehicle I will need operational lessons to simply drive it.

My 8 year-old neighbor spied me talking on my flip phone and immediately turned to his mother,  “He’s really old, isn’t he?”  AARP has stopped mailing me applications for membership.  The stores which I shop give me the senior discount without asking if I am a senior citizen.  Out on the highway, younger folks pass by flipping me the bird because I’m driving the speed limit.  I get phone calls from local funeral homes asking if I’m ready to prepay my final expenses.  People automatically raise their voices when speaking to me thinking I’m just an old deaf man.

Yep, I’m irrelevant in this world.  I haven’t left my mark nor have I made my fortune.  There are no children nor grandchildren to aggravate me and my friends are moving into assisted living or rehab centers.  Now, does anybody really think there’s any rehab going on in those rehab centers? Heck no!  They put you in a bed aside a total stranger with a severe case of flatulence, they feed you food that Grandma would have thrown to the hogs in the pigsty, they make you participate in silly games or arts and crafts, and than you die.  Old Mr. Irrelevant gets two or three lines in the obituaries, ashes get tossed in the ocean, and in about a month people will ask, “What ever happened to old man….ah, what was his name?”

Irrelevant, totally irrelevant.  Unnoticed, unnecessary, unconnected.

Phew!  Well, I’m glad that pity party is over.  Was it as much fun for you as for me?

“Self-pity is one of the most unhappy and consuming defects that we know.  It is a bar to all spiritual progress and can cut off all effective communications to our fellows because of its inordinate demands for attention and sympathy.  It is a  maudlin form of martyrdom, which we can ill afford.”  Bill W. AS BILL SEES IT

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Step 1

“Admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

This is our first hurdle when entering the fellowship of AA.  Some of us put up arguments but, the AAers were quick to squash any notion that controlling drinking was a viable option.  A few of us opted for the ‘controlled drinking’ theory, did more field research and returned defeated and humiliated.  We finally made the admission and went forward with step 1 accomplished.

Much of AA wisdom is based on ancient tenets of the world’s faith walks.  Bill W. and Dr. Bob knew that preaching religion would get them nowhere in recruiting drunks to their newly formed recovery program.  Instead they called God a Higher Power and incorporated many precepts of Christianity and Buddhism into the 12 step program we have today as a way to recovery.  Obviously it worked.  Millions who would never darken the doors of churches are victoriously sober.

The first of the Beatitudes in Christian scripture says, “Blessed (or happy) are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

When we come to AA we are humbled by the demon alcohol.  We have been emptied of all self-respect.  We are begging for relief from our addictions.  We have nothing left of ourselves to contribute to life.  We are like children, beginners searching for a way to live sober lives.  We have tried cures, religion, medication, hospitalization, therapy to no avail.  We are empty, we are beggars, we are nobodies.  Then at our first meeting the old-timers tell us we have to admit powerlessness and unmanageability.  Unthinkable!

“Well,” they say, “Go back out there and try some more drinking.”

“Poor in spirit” is the powerlessness referred to in Alcoholics Anonymous 1st step.  The writer in the book of Matthew 5:3 uses the Greek word ptochoi, for poor which literally means, “the very empty ones, those who are crouching.”  That is an accurate description of us at our first meeting, is it not? cac.org

This first step of AA and this first Beatitude of the teachings of Jesus both lead us to a way of living which emphasizes giving up ourselves in service to others.  And the irony is that just as Jesus did not say the kingdom of heaven will be theirs, rather, the kingdom is theirs, the program of AA does not say its benefits will be realized in another life.  We are not applying for life-time memberships in the eternity club.  No, we will know serenity and peace in this life.  We will realize the “promises” of AA as we empty ourselves of selfishness, arrogance,  and self-preoccupation. AA PROMISES

When I lose myself in service work with other alcoholics, I become free.  Jesus on the Mount was saying, “Happy are you (blessed are the poor in spirit), you’re the freest of all (the kingdom of heaven is yours)”.

Yes, I am powerless today.  I am powerless over alcohol and I am powerless over the turmoil in this world.  I am a beggar, a loser, a misfit, and a runaway in the eyes of “successful” America.  But, I no longer need to compete in worldly games.  Competitors are preoccupied with winning.  My Higher Power has already won my  race for me.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”  Janis Joplin – ME AND BOBBY MCGEE

 

 

 

nothing to prove, nothing to protect

“When you can become little enough, naked enough, and honest enough, then you will ironically find that you are more than enough. At this place of poverty and freedom, you have nothing to prove and nothing to protect. Here you can connect with everything and everyone.”  RICHARD ROHR @ CAC.ORG

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness   

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”  Janis Joplin ME AND BOBBY MCGEE

Same message, different messengers.  Fr. Richard is speaking to our sense of spirituality, Dave Ramsey is addressing rampant consumerism, and Janis….well, we’re not quite sure which drummer Janis was following but all three of them speak of freedom from ourselves, from that inherent, squeaky, little voice which tells us that who and what we are is just not good enough.  It’s the voice that enslaves us to religious doctrine, to consumerism and to self-doubt.

Fr. Richard is of the Franciscan order and a proponent of the ancient mystics including Jesus of Nazareth.  He teaches that rather than climbing the ladder to heightened spiritual awareness, we need to descend, to strip ourselves of ourselves, and recognize our Oneness with all of humanity.  When we lower and join into the world of poverty and oppression with the masses we then become One.  When we earnestly harbor compassion and good will for all of God’s creatures, when we strip of worldly desires, we have nothing more to lose and thereby become free.

Like most of you,  for me to grasp this concept of our reality is difficult.  It requires a revolutionary definition of self which is totally alien to modern Christian orthodoxy and absolutely anathema to today’s popular “prosperity Gospel”.  Mother Teresa, of course, would be an excellent role model.  But, we cannot all give up jobs, families, commitments to go work in the slums of a 3rd world country.  However, we can make a conscious effort to eschew the trappings and trap of wealth and consumerism by recognizing the wisdom and truth of the ancients and by living lives which uphold and honor the rights of all of God’s creation.

“…..nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too…” John Lennon IMAGINE” 

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DOROTHY DAY

Dorothy Day said, “The only way to live in any true security is to live so close to the bottom that when you fall you do not have far to drop, you do not have much to lose.” [1] From that place, we can be used as instruments of transformation and liberation for the rest of the world.

Bias from the Bottom

Dorothy Day

American Journalist
Dorothy Day, Obl.S.B., was an American journalist, social activist, and Catholic convert. Dorothy Day became famous after her conversion. She initially lived a bohemian lifestyle before becoming Catholic. This conversion is described in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness.

Wikipedia

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This wisdom from the lady journalist simplifies the greatest challenges of our day.  For most of the world, security interprets itself as a mad scramble to the top by whatever means necessary, no matter whose toes we must tread upon, no matter how many children starve as a result of our ambitions.  We are conditioned from childhood upward, viz., the competitiveness of little league baseball and football.  We are fed the ‘American dream’ and are left to feel inconsequential when that dream eludes us.  Even our religious institutions substitute for the teachings of Jesus Christ the command to ‘pray hard, live right, and get ahead’.

Christianity lost its balance and direction centuries ago when theology and dogma were elevated over honesty and humility, when preachers no longer exhorted from the pulpits the love story of Jesus, and when differing faiths were demonized and persecuted.

Looking to the bottom makes sense of this world’s dilemmas.  It resonates within my own heart.  Finally realizing and accepting that the top offers no security, that there is no security to be found in materialism and worldliness, a man overcomes the fear of having ‘nothing’.  And then the heart can receive the goodness, the compassion, the brotherhood which our God intended for us.

Janis Joplin had a good heart but was miserably misunderstood.  From “ME AND BOBBY MCGEE” she tells us:

“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”

And, baby, you ain’t nothing if you ain’t free.