Sunday, September 8, 2013

My Individualism Thrives Within The Plural

It’s good to be back home.
While I was out of town I received quite a few messages from subscribers about a previous post (Msg-4-July-2013: “The Life Of The Spirit Is Solitary, Although I Experience My Existence In The Plural”). It concerned the role of community vis-à-vis personal spiritual growth. While on our trip, serendipitously, I was also loaned a book called “The Case of the Missing Person: How Finding Jesus of Nazareth Can Transform Communities and Individuals Today,” R. Earle Rabb, Wipf & Stock, 2010.
In the book Rabb uncovers the message and mission of the historical Jesus during his short ministry. Rabb believes the data is “hidden in plain sight” in the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament. Rabb also approaches this in a manner similar to a detective searching for a missing person. The real Jesus has been overlooked as a result of the dogma and theology developed by the apostle Paul who paid virtually no attention to the life and teachings of Jesus and whose point of view influenced so many of later NT authors. I also cover the virtual disregard Paul has for the person, mission, and teachings of Jesus in my book (How the Bible became the Bible, Chapters 7-8, From Jesus of Nazareth to the Christ of Faith – Parts 1&2, pp. 129-175).
While reading Rabb’s book I began to see my spiritual transformation, as a grateful member of Alcoholics Anonymous, exactly as Rabb describes the communal nature of the Kingdom of God – proclaimed, organized and encouraged by Jesus in the small villages throughout Galilee. I saw my experience with AA as an experience within the Kingdom of God (or the Beloved Community, as Rabb calls it). I had sensed, before studying ACIM, my experience in getting sober within AA was much more than just stopping my drinking. I couldn’t define it any more than that. Knowing about ACIM now, I can see that AA was a Holy Encounter or a Holy Instant as described by A Course in Miracles – the kind of Truth and Oneness that overwhelms and transforms.
I have often stated in these messages how my absolute acceptance by members in the AA fellowship totally, quickly, and permanently turned my life and perspectives upside down. I had never been so absolutely accepted in my life and it transformed me. Without the nurturing support of the Fellowship, I never would have gotten sober – never would have begun the journey that is, essentially, still developing a new me.
AA members did not simply give me a copy of The Big Book, tell me to go read, memorize and believe parts of it, do the suggested steps, and – voilà – my life would change. Had they done that nothing would have occurred. I would have been dead within six months. I was able to change because I became a willing and hungry member of the community. My personal journey, struggles, and decisions were all couched within the framework of this community of other recovering alcoholics.
Without the AA community I would have no spiritual life – nor physical life either. I simply wouldn’t have made it. But without my (and millions of others) visceral belongingness to the AA community there would be no community. At first glance, it seems to be a perfect example of mutual symbiosis. However, that’s not the case. The community ALWAYS takes precedence over the individual. Without AA I would have died. Without me AA would trundle along just fine. The same thing is true among Native American tribes. The singular cornerstone of life is the tribe, not the individual. Progeny depends not on parents but on the tribe. These tribal/communal/sharing communities of impoverished and disheartened Galileans were what Jesus of Nazareth created and fostered. A communal structure, grounded in the oldest of the Hebrew traditions and in the core traditions of Mosaic Law. Take care of the community and you take care of you and yours.
When I look at A Course in Miracles (ACIM) group – especially the one I attend – I find the same dynamic. I cannot read the ACIM book all by myself and derive the guidance I need to keep me on course. The Holy Spirit touches me through the words of honest sharers within the context of accepting group discussions – be they formal or informal. That’s where I come to grips with me. It is where I hear compassionate honesty. It is where I feel safe to share myself honestly. Hearing honesty and sharing honestly – I desperately need both.  That’s how my ideas are tempered, altered, morphed and tested until they become my reality – at least for this week. Sharing is not about hearing dogma explained. It is not about hearing or speaking the correct words: AA words; ACIM words; Bible words; Conservative words; Progressive words. I can certainly do that with the best of you. But, that’s the easiest way for me to hide myself from you and from me, which is deadly. That will kill my spiritual growth faster than any poison.
And, yes, that process is not always pretty.
My spiritual growth is mine. My behavior and actions are mine. I am responsible for me. I am an already-loved spirit currently having a human experience. But I exist and grow within the plural – a family, an AA home group, an ACIM group, progressive political groups, Tennessee, the USA. If I need an accepting, honest group that shares their real selves – through which my Higher Power seems to speak to me – then I need to be there and share honestly – in case your Higher Power needs me in order to speak to you. That’s my reality now. An individual within the plural.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#1 September, 2013
Copyright, 2013

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