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The loudest voices against the ‘social justice warriors’ where the young female computer game fans. Defending a culture against perceived ‘meddling from outsiders’?
This was the same network of fans who were outraged at Scarlett Johansson being cast as Motoko Kusanagi rather than an Asian actress.
From American Public Media, this is , public radio’s conversation about religion, meaning, ethics, and ideas. You’ve won the MVP award for the Super Bowl, and now, “I’m going to Disneyland.” MS. If you act in unskillful ways and immoral ways, you’re going to get those results. GRIFFIN: You know, and I’ll say that there are some things and they talk about this, I think Bill Wilson talks about this in — there are some things that we can really change. There are things that change, that really do get uprooted, and then there’s things that we learn to live with.
Today, “The Spirituality of Addiction and Recovery.” Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson once said that the program he help create is “utter simplicity, which incases a complete mystery.” AA formed organically from the experiences of alcoholics themselves, forged in fellowship with each other, and condensed in 12 steps and 12 traditions. TIPPETT: You use also, this example of the tradition commercial at the end of the Super Bowl. And when you turn your will in your life over it means that instead of following your own reactive self-centered, selfish, greedy mind, you are saying there is a better way to live. And like I don’t have the obsession to drink any more or to take drugs. And living with, I mean, that’s the First Noble Truth, you know, that there’s suffering and that you don’t get to turn it off.
In 1939, the movement’s first 100 or so members laid out what they had learned in a guiding text, The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. TIPPETT: In such language, it’s possible to imagine a quasi-religious movement. It’s, ‘There’s never going to be any more food.’ ‘There’s never going to be another drink.’ ‘There’s never going to be enough for me.’ And in my experience, addiction comes out of that, that wanting, that hunger. In other words, you won’t get a lot of people on the radio even copping to this stuff. So for me, it’s not religious or even about God, although I do believe that what I call God includes karma and karma is a big part of what I call God. TIPPETT: Author and Buddhist teacher Kevin Griffin. Here I am sitting in the studio I see the microphone, you know, here I am, I feel that.’ But how do I remember to do that all the time? So that’s why we practice, that’s what practice is all about, right, is to embed that habitual tendency to remember. TIPPETT: And this also does get at I think a hard question about — you talk about your experience and this is an experience many people have had of implementing this practice of seeing, seeing the destructive patterns of their own behavior and then in that act of seeing becoming aware, beginning to change, unraveling the habits. Occasionally, I might think it would be nice to have a cold beer, you know, but I don’t have the obsession anymore. And so it’s how we hold the experience, it’s how we live with it.
Here’s a recording of Bill Wilson, who died in 1971, reading from a chapter called “How It Works”: MR. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas, and the result was nil until we let go absolutely. Later in this hour, I’ll speak with Kevin Griffin, who’s found life-giving resonance between the Twelve Steps and Buddhism My first guest, Susan Cheever, has written widely about her own experience with addiction and recovery, and that of her father, the late fiction writer John Cheever. I interviewed her shortly after the 2004 release of that book. And, you know, therefore, to put that into remission, or to calm it down, you have to have a faith or a system or whatever you’re going to call it that’s very intimate as well, because it’s private, it’s personal. CHEEVER: Well, to me, you know, the most spiritual thing anybody can do is connect with another human being. Sometimes we’re connecting with ourselves, but I think in Alcoholics Anonymous, the energy of this and the ability that we all have, the incredible eloquence that we all have about our own lives is harnessed in the service of connecting one alcoholic to another. TIPPETT: And that gets at another discipline or aspect of Alcoholics Anonymous, a recovery that you can also find in all the religious traditions, just this value of community, of relationship, in AA. CHEEVER: Well, I think what people get in AA is for an alcoholic who has not been able to stop drinking, to be able to stop drinking is one of the most miraculous things that anybody ever sees. Yeah, and suffering is the common translation of the word dukkha, which — as is true of many of the terms in Buddhism — our English translation doesn’t quite grasp it, so we have to use a variety of words. He describes the fourth through ninth of the 12 steps of recovery as a stage of “investigation and responsibility.” This begins with Step Four, as the puts it, to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Kevin Griffin says that his own process of taking a moral inventory back through his life also became an exercise in better understanding some of the core spiritual teachings of Buddhism. TIPPETT: You know, you talked about, when you were there going back through broken relationships and violence and recklessness and you wrote, “Each of these memories was like a slap in the face, an awakening to another view of the world.” And then you write, “This was slowly, painfully the beginning of compassion developing in me.” Now, explain that. GRIFFIN: So when we can admit deeply to our own failings, then we can start to potentially accept the failings of others, and that’s what I meant by that. And yet we’re learning more about biological roots of addiction, we know more about mental illness and even just the stubbornness of human behavior that may have to do with how our neurons fire. So that has really been uprooted, but there are other things, as you say, that are perhaps, yeah, somehow more hardwired into us. GRIFFIN: You know, it’s with in you, and the same with food addiction. I mean, that’s the grace of spiritual life, is how we live with our struggles, with our suffering. Here again is the voice of AA co-founder Bill Wilson reading the final three of the Twelve Steps. BILL WILSON: (recording of the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) “Ten, continue to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it; eleven, sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out; twelve, having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” MS.
But in that same era, in the New England of Bill Wilson’s childhood, the writings of American icons like Thoreau and Emerson were subtly affecting traditional ideas about God and faith. There’s no question that in his story, he was a man desperate to stay away from a drink. You know the human heart is such a, such a private and frightening place. TIPPETT: I want to ask you about a couple of the other spiritual disciplines that are a part of AA, of the Twelve Steps. And that really, I mean, this was my first exposure to Alcoholics Anonymous was when my father went. And finally he went to rehab, and he came out a different person. You know, he was funny, he was empathetic, he was concerned. I mean, he had a change of heart that blew us all away. It doesn’t continue then, you know, it’s, as I like to say, after sex a cigarette, you know. You know, I had a boss one time, who — I was driving magazine deliveries, and his bookkeeper was really an angry person and was really difficult to be around. The root of that word has to do with memory and, you know, I often say to people it’s easy to be mindful in a moment if you just remember to do it. Concentration, that’s difficult to sustain, mindfulness easy, you should know MS. It’s very clear isn’t it, um, and you know awake is a metaphor. I was teaching this weekend and saying that, you know, right now as I’m teaching, I’m teaching you about things that I’m not experiencing right now.
Susan Cheever suggests that these shifts in the American religious imagination made the accessible spirituality of AA possible. CHEEVER: What was happening in the 1850s and ’60s, before the Civil War in New England, contributed in a very direct way to what Bill breathed in and out with the Vermont air at the turn of the century. You know, many, many people in Alcoholics Anonymous will say that alcoholism, that drinking is a low-level search for God. And over this period of about 10 or 15 years, he put together, one piece at a time, trial and error — mostly error — the things that helped him stay away from a drink. And the last piece, which he got during his fourth hospitalization at Towns Hospital on Central Park West, was a direct, extremely dramatic experience of God, where Bill Wilson, just feeling helpless and, you know, hopeless, fell to his knees and cried out, “God help me.” And he had, you know, the room was suffused with light, a divine light. But I also think that it — to me, one of the greatest — I don’t know what the word is — one of the greatest foundations of spirituality is what Bill called anonymity and, you know, what Christ called humility. When he went into rehab, he was just this sour — he was ready to die. And so, to my mind, you know, there’s a countervailing force to addiction. And maybe it has something to do with the power of the group. But there’s something mysterious at the heart of Alcoholics Anonymous, and whether you call it God or not, there’s something mysterious there that makes people whole again. TIPPETT: And you write and I think this is really part of it that’s for many of us now, I think powerlessness equals passivity or giving up, but that’s now how you’ve come to experience it. GRIFFIN: No, I think that anybody who sits down and closes their eyes and tries to follow their breath immediately sees that they are not in control of their mind and body. And I remember saying to my boss one time, ‘Oh, he’s such a pain.’ You know what he said, ‘You know what I do, when I hear him talking like that, I think that’s the way he talks to himself. So part of our work is to figure out what awake is and how I bring that about. TIPPETT: And the awakening, it comes at the end rather than at the beginning. I’ve had the experience of them, you know, I’ve had these experiences of deep emptiness or stillness or tremendous sense of connectedness or ecstasy, but right now I’m just sharing about them and having had that experience I can refer back to it. GRIFFIN: But it really — it’s just a reference point.Will brands ever worry that they’re not being offensive enough? I do wonder whether I’m alone in spotting this rising conflict between respect and expectations so let me know your thoughts in the comments below.It sounds like an absurd question but I think there are issues around being too safe and bland worth considering. When Snapchat’s Yellowface filter was in the news and labeled as a mistake I saw the issue discussed, in Facebook, by anime and manga fans (most of whom were younger than 25).And that’s just so amazing, because usually faith is something out there waiting for you, you know? Or, I mean, usually these things are thought of, or conventionally these things are thought of as very much outside the scope of what happens between your mouth and your hand. TIPPETT: What is it about alcohol that can force people so close to this intimacy that you’re describing? And I think that’s, you know, one of the amazing things that Bill was able to do. There is something about addiction, you know, just thinking about my own life, it comes from fear. I’m going to starve to death, and the cupboard’s going to be bare, and there’s going to be nothing in the fridge, and the markets are going to be shut.’ And you see this fear, you know, when people hear there’s a hurricane coming, they line up at the supermarket as if — you know, I think that fear is very much present in human life. Kevin Griffin struggled with addictions to alcohol, drugs, and sex until he was 35 years old. And that came partly out of my own willful ignorance and partly because the way Buddhism was being presented in our culture in the ’70s, was they were not emphasizing that aspect of it. And, I mean, putting your story in the context of those times is — there’s also this line that you talk about walking, even music like “Strawberry Fields” or Jimi Hendrix, those almost kinds of transcendent spiritual experiences that were connected with drugs and kind of exalted and very powerful, right? Our online editor is Trent Gilliss, with Web producer Andrew Dayton.