Day Six: Size Matters & Religion and Spirituality

Size Does Matter

I never realized how mutant-esque I really am until now. Given the confined spaces of buses, hallways, short beds and small table I am constantly reminded of how I am literally 30-50 percent larger than the average person.

It is notable in the Shelter, and utterly comical on the bus where I play Lenny (Of Mice and Men) while on it; and George Milton when I get off and into open space.

It is also why I am getting fatter when I should be slimming down. The free kitchens just naturally heap on the pasta as if I’ll starve if they do not.

It’s very sweet.

The hallways are different. I can tell from the fearful deer-in-the-headlamps looks I get from those I meet in the long thin hallway that they are trying to do the math. I basically kiss the wall a lot. Once it misconstrued my intentions and tried to fondle me. It’s a bad situation.

My feet stick out a good, well, er…a foot off the bed.

*******

Sundays & Spirituality

I was talking with young Eric (not real name) yesterday. Though clean and sober for a week he still looks like he has been tazered. He is 21 and has been “using” for almost a decade.

He’s a handsome lad, and all his shields are down…I mean OFF. As such, it is good that the majority of people here are very good people: kind, courteous, good humored.

As a former pastor, I am always somewhat protective. I don’t want or need Eric to think or believe the way I do. If for him GOD is a “Group Of Drunks” and that helps him stop using then that is a good thing. Still, raised Jehovah’s Witness, I know that he has had his fill of “religion” and it has not been at all helpful, or even True.

[Note: I reject the word “drunk” as a noun. It is fine as a verb.]

So I talked with him about area churches after he brought up spirituality. Actually, he used the word “church”, so I was not crossing a line at all. And I know the churches of this area.

Of course, the ideal place is probably St. Andrews Presbyterian, the church made somewhat famous by best-selling author Anne Lamott. The music is joyful, the people safe and non-judgmental and the Rev. Veronica is one great preacher.

But the issue comes back to transportation and food. Man may not “live by bread alone” but it doesn’t hurt. So, I have contacted Christ Church in Berkeley, and will also contact Veronica this week and see if we can get a ride to and from a service next week. It gives me a week to see who is serious and who isn’t.

That may sound judgmental, but read the Book of James (written by Jesus’ brother) and all sorts of problems crop up for how the Church handles the homeless…or some wings of the Church.

St. Vincent de Paul is essentially a Catholic organization and they feed and care over San Rafael’s homeless to the tune of 700 a day. That is faith in action. People will complain about the religious nature of some aspects of Catholicism (or point to certain overt hypocrisies and perversions by the few), but you cannot ding them on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and helping people rebuild their broken lives.

*****

It has become more common place to distinguish between Faith and Spirituality almost versus Religion. I take this as a very good thing. I have long pointed to the fact that even the Atheistic critique of Religion is closer to Old and New Testament writings than the Fundamentalist religiosity of many. In other words, in a discussion with an ardent Atheist, I will have far more in common world-view wise than with a Fundagelical who does not know his or her own texts or has twisted them into a cold dead life-less ritual.

Now AA is a spiritual program and everyone inside of it knows it regardless of their view or beliefs. To be sure, it may be that many are like the Athenians of Mars Hill (who were notable in a very good way) who had constructed a statue to “the Unknown God” (read all of Acts 17:16-34), but they are open.

I am not religious. In fact, I despise religion and its deleterious effects. But spirituality and faith are another matter.

We can all meet is in our spirituality. To be sure, I shake out as Paul and Silas do in Athens when they insist both that Jesus is raised from the dead and alive now; and that “God who made the whole world and everything in it is the Lord of the land and the sky. He does not live in temples made of human hands.” But that is my own personal journey of faith and trust.

He lives inside of people just as sure as He is the Lord of the lands and the sky of Pt. Reyes.

Which often brings us back to the question of alcohol and morality. Perhaps some of it comes from the fact that when most people (almost all) started to drink or use it was associated with other acts of violence, usury, lust…in short, usually paired with a “deadly sin” here or there (which are, by the way, not listed as such in the Bible). Thus, years later subtract those and you still have the naked disease in full “bloom”.

We do not yet fully realize as a culture that alcoholism is a disease. To be sure, it may be closer to emphysema for a smoker than leukemia for an otherwise healthy person, but it is still a disease that is genetically based.

In my case, I will more than likely not be killed by it, but rather by heart disease. No one will judge me for having a heart attack sometime in the next three decades. If I die from the other a pall will hover over my kids and the brief memory of me as it fades.

People always object when I say I won’t see 80.

“How many 6’4” or above men do you know who are older than 70?” I ask.

“um, er…I…, er..hmmn” (silence).

It’s fine. I was pretty sure I was not gonna get out of this alive anyway.

Before I move on, let me also note the socio-economic aspect. There are plenty of alcoholics in my extended family…they just have money. I am not whining, in fact the opposite. I am glad I am an openly recovering alcoholic. It makes me employ disciplines daily others casually ignore. For instance, I keep a clear deck with people or, if not possible, I drop them and move on.

It also humbles my otherwise arrogant nature and makes me more pliable.

My real concern is the latent genes in all four of my children, especially the doubling up for the two youngest. If I must be the Cautionary Tale, let it be for them. “Don’t turn the key on this bad boy and you’ll be fine and not have to deal daily. If you do, I’ll be there for you.

It is not essential that anyone agree with me, except others with my disease who know from first-hand experience (which is why we laugh a lot in meetings).  The others who remain, accept me as I am…all my beauty and my disease as well (which will never go away). They are my family.

So in my view, Alcoholism is a disease and all the railing against it doesn’t do a whit of good. And Religion is the attempt to nail God down.

God has allowed for this apparently; just don’t expect Him to stay there.

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