Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Jenz Book O'The Decade

Humming merrily in the background: The air conditioner
Meters swum today: None. Overslept. Again.
Kilometers swum in July, Swim for Distance month: 7.7 of 40.2

I'm pretty sure I've plugged Mel Ash before, but I've just reread his book, The Zen of Recovery, and it's just so darn cool I'm gonna do it again. I stumbled uponst this particular paperback Stone of Wisdom during a rather trying time in my early OA career. OA, and all the other A's, have a spiritual component, in case you didn't know. For some people that can become overtly religious. I was in this "90 meetings in 90 days" phase where I was trying to go to as many meetings as I could (it helped that I was unemployed). I went to one that took place in a Babtist church in Mesquite, which, in itself, wasn't that big a deal (I've been to meetings in lots of different kinds of churches). BUT, this particular meeting was where somebody told me that I'd never recover until I asked Jesus Christ to become my personal Saviour, and this particular meeting also closed with the Lord's Prayer. Both of these things are major OA no-nos. One of the whole points is not pushing any particular religion but inviting each person to define his or her own Higher Power. And the Lord's Prayer to close? Even some way Christian OA people I know told me later that they thought that was pretty weird. I didn't know any better, though, being new, and I came away from this meeting rather mopey.

Look, I dig Jesus, okay? Guy was cool. Long-haired rebel, wise one, scholar, poet and holy man. Plus, everything he ever said makes perfect sense if you consider who he was saying it to: the Jewish men of his time. Calling them to be better men. Insisting that they take care of the widows and orphans and do what they were supposed to do, according to God's law. Not letting them get away with this "Well, the Romans permit this sort of thing, and they're the bosses right now" bullshit. Unfortunately for Jesus, the Jewish men of his time were much more interested in chasing away the Romans, and thought Jesus was this general who would call them to arms. Imagine their surprise when he said "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's"; in short, it doesn't matter who the boss is, do the right thing because it's right. Which didn't end very well, for Jesus personally, although it did sort of save the whole human race from itself. (Would that he could do it again.) So I like the guy. He's awesome. I just can't get behind the whole religion thing. It doesn't make sense to me.

Anyway, I called Joan at work and asked if she could find me some books about 12 Steps and Buddhism, figuring A. there had to be some and B. she's a librarian and that's what she does. She came up with Mel. She rocks. I started reading and found out that Mel had exactly the same experience with somebody telling him he had to become a Christian to recover (from alcoholism, in his case). He goes through the Twelve Steps, one by one, and draws stunning parallels to Buddhist theory and philosophy. Which is awesome. And which, finally, cleared up my whole confusion about what to call my Higher Power. He calls his Zen. I don't call mine anything. Both are fine, as is Jesus, Allah, Great Spirit, or whatever else you wanna stick in there. The point is that you rely on it. What you choose to call it is less than important.

So, anyway, this is my new Book o'the Decade. Anybody interested in Buddhism, Twelve-Step groups, or a really cool beatnik writer guy who has learned hard and painful lessons and used what he learned to save himself from himself, would appreciate it. Find it. Read it. Love it. Tell your librarian Jen sent you.

ps. In case you're wondering, I'm at Step Four, and I've been there for months. It's slow going sometimes.

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