Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The trifling treasures of the ego

"We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defence against the first drink." (23:1)

The ego is like this, too ... at certain times, the satisfactions of the ego do indeed, work. But, at certain times, they do not. We wear them out.

"All went well for a time, but he failed to enlarge his spiritual life." (35:3)

It does not say how long things went well for Jim ... a few days, a few months, 20 years ... We know, in fact, that it was a few months, but I have had the experience of a materially based life with occasional forays into the realm of the spirit actually working pretty damn well for years.

I had something of a nervous breakdown at seven years sober and another, more dramatic one at eight years sober, because of attachment to a material world which gradually turned on me, ultimately quite viciously.

I couldn't find any further sustenance in the money, power, and prestige (in all of their manifestations), and the frustration killed me, because I had no further source of nourishment. The spiritual life was a dead set of rituals for me. Psychology, also, failed, because it gave me information without power. I was, indeed, Rowland Hazard (26), the equivalent of the good church member with a full understanding of the intricacies of his own mind but unable, nonetheless, to life usefully and happily. He drank. I did a bunch of other 'stuff' for which Twelve-Step fellowships are available.

I do not believe God is offended when I follow the material life. The price I pay is not punishment from God but punishment by the law … If I jump out of the window, I will eventually hit the sidewalk. The sidewalk is not punishing me. The law of gravity is not punishing me. The laws are simply operating impersonally. If I live for too long too attached to the material world, I will suffer under the spiritual law that, when I worship other 'Gods' (money, power, and prestige in all of their manifestations), I will become disconnected from my true source of power. Lending my name (my identity) to outside enterprises (Tradition Six) will eventually divert me from my primary purpose—serving God—the unlimited power within me, beyond my ego.

At seventeen years plus sober, I am still drawn to material things, my ego is still flattered by prestige, and power still gives me a thrill. Step Eleven reviews are necessary to keep these in check.

However, grace afforded through the Twelve-Step programme and all three sides of the triangle and sometimes despite my deviation therefrom generally keeps me safely in the world of the spirit on most days, and the world and its pleasures are somewhere I am visiting rather than somewhere I depend on for my sustenance. The trinkets are just that—trinkets. They are no longer the source of my power.

If my relationship with God—the source of my power—is the most important relationship in my life, my question is how much time I am spending with God. I would be a hypocrite in any other relationship, claiming it to be the most important yet spending no time with the person.

The more I attach to God as the source of my power and my strength and direction (85:2), the more the other attachments fall away and become decoration of my life.

So, I don't have to get rid of the Prada overnight bag or switch from wearing Cartier fragrance to a Walmart own brand. This is not about renouncing the world, because whatever you renounce you become even more attached to. It is about dropping the attachment to and reliance on the world.

God's channels switch constantly, and I need to switch with them.

1 comment:

RevDan said...

This is great stuff Tim, thank you. for some reason it brought to mind this Sufi tale...

“What Price a Kingdom”
Haroun Al-Rashid was a very powerful king. In fact he was the most powerful king in the whole world, and his influence stretched over many hundreds of miles. One day he was talking about his power and his wealth to a wise man called Aman.
“I have so much power that I can make any man do what I command; I have so much wealth that I can buy anything I like. I live in the most beautiful of palaces; I eat my food from golden plates, and I wear clothes spun from the finest silk. There is no man in the whole world who can compare with me,” he boasted.
Aman listened carefully, and then he asked the king a question. “If you were dying of thirst in the middle of a desert, what would you give for a cup of water?”
Without hesitation the king answered, “I’d give half of my kingdom!”
“And if you drank the water so fast that your stomach was in danger of bursting, what would you give for the pills which would cure your condition and keep you alive?”
“I would give the other half of my kingdom!” declared the king.
“Why then, O great king, do you boast about you fantastic wealth and your great power if you would trade then both for a cup of water and a few pills?” asked Aman.