Thursday, October 8, 2009

Feels like...

Recently, I was at a workshop on the Traditions and Concepts of AA.  It was an odd format in that 6 presenters each had about 10 minutes to cover some portion of all the material so that all 24 concepts and traditions were covered,  lightly at best.

One of the most "masterful" presenters did a great job explaining the several traditions he was given but then, wrapped it up by saying "...all this is to say that there are definitely things that AA 'is' and AA 'is not' - but, over time in our fellowship you begin to learn that some things clearly 'feel like AA' and other things 'feel like they're not AA'".  I think he then went on to say that we don't use our traditions as some sort of legal test as to whether things are appropriate or not but instead as a guideline to the general principles we conduct ourselves by.

I've spent some time since thinking about this.

On the one hand, I hate this.  I am, by nature and training, a programmer, an engineer and, a scientist.  If it can't be measured, to me it generally doesn't exist or it isn't important.  If I can't prove me right and you wrong by our traditions, I see much less value in them.

On the other hand, what he said rang true and I think, largely, is  true for us in our fellowship.  I've been to dances that were clearly "AA" and I've been to weekend-long conferences with AA in the title that were clearly not "AA".  In some instances, it is clear to understand why that was the case - e.g. support of our primary purpose, opportunities of one alcoholic talking to another, being self supporting, telling the truth, etc.  In other cases, it was not so clear as to why they were or weren't - but, what was undeniable was there was either a spirit present or there wasn't.

I have found several of us have adopted a thread on this in the blogosphere in this that the consciousness of this discussion has started to evolve.  I think it's important.  I must, because I'm on the threshold of devoting a significant part of my time and treasure toward supporting that conversation (more on that possibly in a few weeks).  But, that's just me.

More importantly, as I've discussed this with my sponsor and other members, I've also spent some time reviewing AA history and realize that this is not a new conversation or quandary.  From the very start (in 1935), we were having similar discussions about what "it is" and what "it isn't" - long before it was named "AA".  There have been deep and harmful schisms in our fellowship.  Peoples' feelings have been hurt and there have been accusations and recriminations in public and in private.  AA itself has seemed on the very brink of extinction multiple times.

So, today, even with our beloved traditions, concepts and 75 years experience, we may not have any better tools than they did in 1935 to guide us. Hopefully, at it's core, we will be a fellowship of folks who've recovered from a fatal malady through a spiritual awakening to be able to discern in our individual lives and fellowship the hand of God.

And then, following the direction of that hand, participate in what "feels like AA" and refrain from participating where it "doesn't feel like AA".


Syd said...

Great post. I like the gestalt approach--I know in my gut what feels like Al-Anon and when someone is just using their control to dominate and govern.

Scott said...

yessir, when in doubt, check it against the Traditions...

The Steps save us from ourselves, the Traditions save AA from us!

Scott W said...

We may struggle, but God brings us across to the other side.

Steve E. said...

Man, you been like, everywhere in AA.. I'm gonna listen.

Mary Christine said...

I am concerned about the percentages of each.