In the latest edition of Lenswork, Brooks Jensen quotes statistics compiled by Jerold Jenkins, and says that after graduating 1/3 of all high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives, and that 42% of college graduates never read another book. He says 80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
If we aren’t reading, we aren’t thinking. If we aren’t thinking, we are too shallow to splash. But, it allows us to get by. It enables us to cope. How many of us could face what most of us have to face with realization and awareness—thinking about it? Where are we going? Where are these lives taking us? What do we have to look forward to, or enjoy? What hope do we have, become? What is there to hope for beyond more glass and plastic and the next major purchase? We cannot THINK about these things! We would have to take our own lives, if we did. The life the culture offers us, with it’s buy, spend, amass, and consume orientation, is as empty as it gets. Our addictions are our only consolation. We cannot face our lives as they are. There is nothing there.
In order to change what must be changed, we have to bear the pain of the way things are, the pain of how it is with us. In order for that to happen, the pain of staying where we are, as we are, has to be greater than the pain of bearing the pain of transformation. And, our lives are geared to keeping us pain free. Numbing out is the blessed gift of addiction. Alcohol, drug abuse, and NASCAR are among our favorite ways of escaping the pain of our lives. But, what would I have us do instead? We cannot live, looking our life in the eye.
We cannot live alone, looking our life in the eye. Therapeutic communities help us bear the pain of being alive, and transform our lives. Therapeutic communities enable us to think, and to live toward a future that is worthy of us. We have to associate regularly, and intentionally, with the right kind of people if we are to have a chance at a life worth living.
Alcoholics Anonymous, and the 12-step spin-offs, have proven to be therapeutic communities for those who have found their way into them. And, in all of these groups, it is the thirteenth step that is the saving step. It is unstated, only implied, but it is about full participation in, and commitment to, the experience of the therapeutic community. AA members go to meetings, by God, no matter what. They have to. Their lives depend on it. There you are.
What do you do because your life depends on it? How many groups are you a member of that you have to meet with because that’s the only thing standing between you and the Void? How many therapeutic attachments do you have? You think you can make it on your own, don’t you? You think you have what you need, don’t you? You think you can spend your way to peace and happiness, don’t you? You think you just need a little more money and a HD TV, or some glass and plastic equivalent, and things will be fine, don’t you?
How many of the right kind of people do you know? Would you recognize the right kind of person if you saw one? Have you ever belonged to a group of the right kind of people? Do you know what to look for?
Acceptance, compassion, awareness, and authenticity are good things to start with. How many groups do you know of with these four qualities ever-present? How about grace, and kindness, and a healthy sense of boundaries? A healthy sense of boundaries means no one tries to mind your business, or change you, or convert you, or condemn you. How about honor and respect? How about perceptive and present, attuned and conscious? How about agenda-less? How about confidential and trustworthy? How about playfulness, and humor, and confidence in each other’s ability to find our way through whatever we are dealing with to a healthy, healing perspective, with joy and wholeness as a regular part of the mix?
You can’t get there with an HD TV. This isn’t to discount the place of money in our lives, but it IS to put money in its place in our lives. Money cannot take the place of therapeutic attachments. Money is no substitute for relationships with the right kind of people. We cannot buy what therapeutic communities give us. Ah, but, if we can’t buy it, how do we get it? How do we find what we need?
The rule is always to start with what we have where we are. We do not go to Tibet or to India in search of it. The Zen image that applies is that we are like a man wearing his hat looking for his hat; like a woman holding her car keys looking for her car keys. The first step to finding what we need is to become what we are looking for. Our work is to become, to be, a therapeutic presence. “When the flower opens, the bees appear.” Our work is to develop the therapeutic qualities within ourselves, to offer them to the world, and to see what happens without trying to force anything before its time. The plan is No Plan, No Agenda, just therapeutic presence, just seeing, just hearing, just accepting, just loving, just being. The world is dying for these things. The world is dying to be seen, and heard, and accepted, and loved. The world is dying for those who can be with the world without an agenda, just seeing, just hearing, just accepting, just loving. And each one of us is a therapeutic community just waiting to unfold and emerge, and be gathered together for the good of each and of all.