Saturday, April 04, 2009
It's 6:30 a.m. and I'm on my way to work. It's a 10-minute ride. Usually my coworker and I will do a little small talk to pass the time, but not this morning. She’d been going through some difficult times in her life and she told me about how she’d been preying to God for help. The exact content of the prayer isn't the point so much as the method. She said as soon as she stopped asking for change is when it happened. She let go and handed it over to God’s will her prayers were answered. We were talking about surrender. It much like the 12 step process. After we admit we are powerless we submit our life to a higher power. Having never been in a 12-step program all of my experiences of them are from movies and television. We got to work and I started to think about the concept of surrender in my own life. How got rid of the “should” statements in the background of my thinking. And I started to think how so many people in my life could benefit from this concept of surrender I had to write about it to better understanding for myself. In the movie You Kill Me Ben Kingsly plays an alcoholic hit man who is forced into AA or else get whacked by the mob. He’s an atheist. If you're not familiar with AA I did a little wiki for you and pasted a link to the original 12 steps. Let’s just say there is a lot of God talk in AA and is a real obstacle for non-believers. AA is by no means a perfect solution to alcoholism, but it’s helped countless people overcome addiction and its model is used by copycat support groups of all kinds. While in the movie the conflict of ideology made for some hilarious dark comedy, fact is there really isn't any real conflict between surrender and atheism. In the movie Kingsly's sponsor told him to choose something big he chooses The Golden Gate Bridge as his higher power. It didn’t really matter what he surrendered to, he just had to let go. Seeing him surrender control to the bridge was strangely beautiful and hauntingly real. He almost jumped off that bridge, something two people every week. The ultimate reason people jump is because they can’t surrender. That discontent that leads people to jump off bridges comes from a single word, should. Should. The word represents the separation that lies at the core of our existence. It forms the gap between life as it is and life as we expect it to be. Many people who are driven to jump may feel justified in their reasons. They may have been victims of violence, illness, or disaster. But it isn’t the situation in their life that kills them it’s their inability to deal with it that kills them. We believe that no one should be the victim of rape. No one should ever have to lose a house in a flood, or die of cancer, or go blind. We know that these things will never come to an end, but we believe they should. I’m not saying anyone should be raped, or murdered, or suffer and die, but this the way of the world. These are the flip side of the joy of existence. This is life as it is. Everything is as it "should" be. It is as it should be because that is already that way. It is insane to believe that reality will conform to our way of thinking. Shakespeare said, "There is nothing good or bad, but thinking that makes it so." There's every reason to try to improve the dreadful conditions of this world, but to say they should be any other way then they are is a chasing of wind. My mom teaches chorus to misbehaving kids. One day after practice she calls me saying "you know it should shouldn't have to be this hard " and I asked her "why? why should it be any easier?" She didn't have an answer. We spend so much of our time arguing with reality. Fact is these kids have emotional problems associated with absent or neglectful parents, kids having kids, and the loosening of acceptable behavior in society as a whole. They act just the way they “should” given their situation. Then we may say they shouldn't have to live in such a world, but why shouldn't they? Certainly they do. Do we know how this world should be? Are we so arrogant that we know better than the infinite intelligence that is existence? We want things to be a certain way, but is that the way they aught to be?Some of the greatest growth comes from suffering. Some of the greatest nations rise to greatness because of hardship. Had it not been for the economic depression or the War in Iraq we wouldn’t have a great President. No saying that it justifies their existence, their existence justifies itself, but it’s an illustration of how things we think should not exist have consequences we couldn’t have ever foreseen. Not saying that we should stop trying to make the world better. By all means do it. If there is something that you should be doing that you aren't, stop now and do it. If there is nothing you can do about it give up on your belief that it’s shouldn’t be the way it is. Don’t do it just because it will make you happier, though it’s not a bad reason, do it because you realize there is not good or bad outside your own mind. Beyond the substance of your gray matter there is no good or bad, it just is.Do you ever think of yourself as being richer than you are, smarter than you are, better looking than you are? Do you ever dream of having special abilities? Do you wish you could make someone love you? Do you wish there was a way to make the world better? Do you want to save people from their own ignorance? Either it will happen or it won’t. Find out witch it is and get rid of all the junk in your mind that argues with reality. Like hitting your head against a wall expect the wall break, you are insane if you believe you will can change the way things are. It isn't easy to come to acceptance, to really, but to be happy you have to. No matter how close you come to you a goal, even after achieving your dreams there will always be a gap, a should. Life will never be as you want it to be. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to benefit from the 12 steps created by AA. We know it works for them, and for our problems being a lot less urgent it can work for us too. The truth of the steps is born out by it's results. The specifics of them aren’t the point but the general truth they point to is profound. So what can they teach us about surrender? First surrender is not defeat. It is the triumph over self-delusion, it’s coming to terms with what is, it’s stopping where you are right now and getting real. It’s ending the unspoken assumption that reality bends to our will. Surrender is freedom. I can't say that I have learned how to surrender completely, but I'm getting better. I'm slowly coming to understand my own unspoken demands on existence. When I think about how almost everyone implicitly demands life to be a certain way it seems like utter foolishness and yet we're compelled to continue to do it. So I guess I’m putting myself on a 12-step program of my own design. It’s process than a destination. Try to close the gap. Try to let go. Acceptance is good. Breathe. Smile.
Posted by Malcolm Travers