Saturday, July 26, 2008



Life is essentially going according to plan; I have the job that I wanted moving my way up the ladder as a design director, a loving supportive marriage, a prudent savings plan and a baby on the way. Why do I sometimes feel like I’m being crushed by my own life? Choices I’
ve made, no matter how thought out, seem to have backed me into a corner where I have little flexibility because of my many responsibilities. Even if I look at it logically and see that the life I’m leading is exactly what I went for, I still find my emotions are disconnected from that reality. I am restless and always looking for something better or different, often seeking a change of scenery (ie wanting to travel or move) as a solution to my dissatisfaction. How can I find peace and joy in my day to day rather then getting restless for something more or better?




There are two quotes which, when paired, read to me as the two most important things ever uttered in the history of mankind. The first comes from Plato (or Aristotle- no one is really sure) and urges us to "Know thyself." The second is offered by Shakespeare who suggests, "To thine own self be true."

It is my sense that most people (at least those whom I have had the privilege of helping) are prone to attempting to fulfill the second directive without ever answering the first. That is, they make an effort to be true to themselves without ever finding out who they are. Consequently, often through sheer tenacity, they achieve what they believed would bring them joy (job, spouse, money, children) and find themselves perplexed by their lack of satisfaction. What we find here is that it is nearly impossible to be true to oneself if one knows not whom they are being true to.

I am certainly not declaring that this, in any way, sums up your situation, though it might be worth considering whether or not it is in any way reflective of what you find yourself facing.

To look at your words in a more specific fashion, you claim, "Everything is going according to plan." What is this plan? When and how was this plan developed? Is this plan based on the wants and needs of your heart or is it based on some idea of happiness that you absorbed as a product of your conditioning? Does the plan demand that you find peace and self-love or does the plan suggest that money, job, marriage and children are THE ROAD TO peace and self-love? If the plan is based on the latter, you may be functioning under a faulty construct. Don't get me wrong; the aforementioned items can all be abundant blessings. I can testify to this from my own experience. I have a wife of nearly ten years who is truly my closest friend and advocate; we have two remarkable little girls; I have a career which allows me to feel incredibly useful and satisfied; and we are financially comfortable. Also, I am happy, joyous and free. You will notice that there is no suggestion that my emotional and spiritual state is a direct product of what I have.

Another way of relaying this idea might be through the "be do have" construct. The idea here, is that many people tell themselves that the most efficient order of these three simple words is have, do, be. This is to say, they believe that if they HAVE what they are supposed to have, than they can DO what they are supposed to do, and finally BEcome who they are supposed to be. My experience shows this to be an entirely backward perspective. I (and many wiser than myself) have found that if we work to find our truth and authentically BEcome who we truly are, we will be presented with what we need to DO to honor that truth, and we will summarily HAVE whatever we are meant to have.

The statements, "Being crushed by my own life," "Backed me into a corner," and "I have little flexibility" suggest to me that you have become the victim of the illusion that your life is happening to you as opposed to the reality that your situation is a direct product of your thinking, your perspective and your choices. And it is quite possible (and I stress possible), that your input and conditioning were such that while you may have been taught how to seek and find accomplishment, no one really instructed you on how to seek and find Karen. The persistent restlessness you allude to suggests there may be some merit in this idea. It seems that the lens through which you are viewing your current state is one that has all to do with "having what you want," rather than one assisting you in "wanting what you have."

As to the natural follow up question of, "well how in the hell I do I pull off this perspective change!?" there is, unfortunately not an EASY answer to this, although there is a fairly SIMPLE one. My suggestion would be an energy shift. That is, for a time, choosing to let go of what your exterior life is supposed to look like, and putting your energies toward some internal work in an effort to learn more about who you are.

In terms of action, this might mean continuing to work at your present job and release the need to "climb the ladder,"; allowing your financial situation to be what it is (assuming your basic needs are met); continuing to be the best wife you can be moment to moment; and simply allowing this beautiful new life form to grow within you toward its entrance into the world. None of this ought to require much in the way of staunch pro activism on your part.

Then, take your new found energy and apply it to a journey of consciousness. Whether this journey is best propelled through some form of counseling, meditating, spiritual reading, yoga, or some combination of these, will reveal itself as you engage in paying attention to yourself. Further, I would be happy to make some more specific suggestions if you are interested.

Let go of "being true to your self" and choose to "know yourself." You won't be sorry.

God bless you-

Thursday, July 24, 2008


There is truly nothing more delightful (for me anyway) than to walk into an undertaking like this one (the blog) with no agenda, believing that it will become exactly what it is meant to become, and then have it do just that. As I moved forward from "Further Thoughts on Sustenance" into a question based format, I was thinking in terms of questions like, "My boyfriend is cheating on me, what shall I do?" (bear in mind, this is not the type of question I necessarily crave, simply what I thought might inevitably be thrust my way). Instead, in the early goings anyway, we seem to be engaged in ongoing examination of the nature of faith... fucking fabulous! This newest question (more of a statement really... though a damn fine one) comes from one Mike A., and is, essentially, a response to the preceding post "The Challenge of Spirit."


Oh, to have this be a conversation instead of a blog post. I too am an atheist, however, I may not be the kind of atheist you are accustomed to hearing. I take the title quite literally, I do not believe there is a god. That is not the same as not having faith.

I wear the brand "secular humanist" quite proudly...I have faith that the human race (generally), and most people (specifically) are good, and, when treated fairly and properly, are likely to treat others fairly and properly. Most come to this behavior through a religion, though there are many bad things that people get from religion too (just like anything, religion can be turned to ill purpose).

I have faith that when I am at peace with myself, I will be at peace with others around me. And my peace comes not from the comfort that, though things may be outside my ken, there is a omni-present force or face there that understands. I can hold in my head the idea that infinity is outside my grasp without fear. The resolve to be ME, understanding who I am and how I became this way, is the path I walk. For me, the faith that I can achieve this needs no support from a building, an idol, a community, or a god (it does need some help from the therapist, lol).

I guess my other title that is relevant to the discussion is "scientist". To me that title means that I am fascinated to understand how things work. It also means that, when confronted with something I don't understand, I know that there is a process by which I could come to understand it. For me, the scientific method, when appropriately applied (given sufficient time and effort), can explain any piece of our infinite universe. There is no reason to have faith that someone or something somewhere understands (created, planned, etc.) the things I don't.

Michael, have you encountered the Gnostic Gospels? The book by Elaine Pagels was fascinating to me because it displays "the road not taken" in early Christianity. The path so described seems much closer to how I approach the world. As I recall it (which likely means "as I came to understand it"), the idea that God is the part of us that is not flesh, and that we together collectively are God, was most interesting to me. It was a push to find an interpersonal spiritual connection. I see that what instead evolved (through the ill-deeds of power-seeking men) was a system by which interpersonal spiritual connections required an intermediary. All Christian systems, no matter their evolution, still hold that God, or a bishop, or the pope, or a minister, is the apex of the triangle. Marriages are assembled this way, for instance.

The idea that the "self", the part that leaves when the heart stops beating, and the part that appears somewhere in the second trimester, is drawn from a universal pool of unique souls, well, it sounds way too literal a myth to have power. If instead you hold infinity out as the benchmark...then all things that can happen have a chance to happen. There is nothing odd about "self", because in an infinite universe there is no reason I could not happen.

(I know this same argument can turn back around at me, so I use it with the caveat: I'm not done framing it.)

I would never claim a religious perspective, for in our modern world to disbelieve in God means you disbelieve in Religion.

I wish that we had connected sooner, and that we were not now 3000 miles apart, because I would sorely love to get a pint and talk this out.

I guess to sum: I challenge that atheist equals faithlessness. I challenge that faith equals God.

Mike A.


The more I read (and re-read) your post, the more I began to think that the term atheist is a rather anomalous one. It is far too broad and, consequently, often misunderstood and misrepresented. Quite frankly, if one chooses to use the popular dictionary definition,
"a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings," than I am an atheist. While I consider myself to be a man of deep and abiding faith, the idea of a master builder is quite ludicrous to me.

My sense of God is essentially "a source"; an innate undercurrent of energy in the universe from which we may draw great power. I am quite comfortable referring to this energy as "God," mainly because it has proven remarkably convenient. It is one syllable and, by far, the most commonly understood word to describe whatever the aforementioned energy may or may not be. In fact, the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous often uses the word God as an acronym for Good Orderly Direction. While the acronym itself falls a bit short of my sense of spirit, I feel it still speaks accurately to the idea that the word itself ultimately means nothing. What I mean to say is, whatever is up there (out there, in here, etc.); it certainly does not have a name. Even the Bible (which I find useful only as an interesting, and sometimes useful, spiritual read) does not suggest an intrinsic title for "the source." While God is used ad infinitum, so is Lord, Almighty, Jehovah, and, my favorite, "I am that I am." Therefore, when I speak of spirituality and/or the journey of consciousness, I speak of my relationship "with God." The listener then has the choice to either probe further what this means to me, or they are free to assume that I am a religious zealot (and I am clear that you fall into the former position).

Your statement that,
"I have faith that when I am at peace with myself, I will be at peace with others around me," defines what I would call the path of consciousness. The great challenge of our human journey DOES seem to be, "understanding who I am and how I became this way." The corresponding question then becomes, how do we shake off the ways in which we are prone to define ourselves (specifically through input and conditioning from the past), and find our truth? My experience, strength and hope (all I really have) tells me that, while counseling has always proved a valuable tool, spiritual practice has been the undercurrent to genuine growth. And so, when I begin and end my day, every day, with prayer and meditation, it is my effort to let go of the insanely imperfect nature of my limited humanity and plug into the perfect, limitless nature of spirit. The expression, "we are NOT human beings having a spiritual experience, we ARE spiritual beings having a human experience" speaks perfectly to this concept. When I count on will power and intelligence as my primary tools, I find myself consistently prone to useless projection, co-dependency, fear of abandonment, people pleasing, self-loathing and a whole host of human perils. When I allow will power and intelligence to work as subsidiaries of a power greater than human power, I find myself slowly liberated from these potentially crippling character liabilities.

What I absolutely know about God is that I don't know what God is; the true growth has come in letting go of the need to know. My experience has shown that most people have a driving need to know, and are subsequently jammed up attempting to know the unknowable. Not only do I not know what God is; I don't care. It matters not one whit. My spiritual freedom actually comes from not knowing. This is to say that when I pray, what I am praying to can morph according to what my needs are at that moment. While the idea of God being a person of some sort holds no weight for me, there are certainly times that what I envision in my prayers is a paternal or maternal loving being. Why the hell not? I'll never know what it is anyway, so if I am feeling raw and vulnerable, and the idea of praying to a universal subconscious mind feels too cold and detached for me in the moment, I can envision my source as a loving mother.

This is why i am not anti-religion; i am simply not religious (which was drastically informed by my degree in theology, by the way). If the idea of a single path to God via community and custom and dogma is the most effective way for you to draw power from the universe, huzzah for you! On the other hand, if you have become a prisoner of these ideas based on early life force feeding, your experience will probably be less than fulfilling (but that is for another post). I have had marvelous, life altering experiences in Christian churches, Buddhist temples, Jewish congregations and Islamic mosques. While there are elements of all these faiths which trouble me enormously, by not signing up to "join the team," I get to take what I want and leave the rest. For my money, there is me and there is God- every way which exists to engage in that relationship (organized religion, yoga, astral projection, crystals, divination) functions as a lens. Which lens will suit me and when, has all to do with paying attention to my needs and using what feels useful.

I, too, am a scientist. I, too, find great fascination in the whys and the hows of this world. Though, as mentioned earlier, I also believe in the unknowable. While I honor your belief that,
"There is no reason to have faith that someone or something somewhere understands (created, planned, etc.) the things I don't," I must tell you that I can give you an excellent reason: it relieves a whole lot of self imposed, unnecessary pressure. I really don't believe that we are meant to know everything; and I really don't sense that the world would be a happier place if we did. I love knowing. I love not always needing to know more.

Yes, I am familiar with the work of Elaine
Pagels, and I find an immense amount of beauty in the ideas you speak of.

It is clear to me that, minus all the language (and I am a BIG fan of language- sometimes to my own detriment), we are not all that far apart. It is clear to me that you have a strong faith and a true sense of spirit. So are you really an atheist? Ahh- what the fuck does that mean anyway?!

God bless you-

Friday, July 18, 2008


It would seem that it is a bit early in the process to stray from the format of this forum, but it's my damn blog so I am going to do it anyway. The following post is not a response to a letter I received so much as a response to the chapter of a book I am currently reading. The book in question is entitled "Non Coloring Book." It was written by one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mr. George Hrab.

George and I discovered each other in high school and quickly forged a relationship based mainly on our ability to draw each other into a frenzy of chuckles, giggles, snickers and general joviality. In the last ten years, I have spoken to George rarely and seen him even less. Yet, we have always seemed to be able to pick up as if not a moment had passed and we both appear to have a mutual sense that our friendship remains intact regardless of our lack of contact.

The book I speak of is George's debut as an author. Up until now, my main experience of his artistic merits have been limited to his skills as a musician (and he is remarkable!) Interestingly, one component of George's makeup that I have only become aware of reading the extensive liner notes of his various albums is his staunch atheism. Whether this part of George had not yet developed in our earlier lives or whether it simply never came up at that time is a question to which I have no answer; nor does it seem very important. What IS important is how curious I am about this fact of his life. I have always been interested in atheism; mainly due to the commitment it takes to pull it off. It is far different than being an agnostic, which is usually a product of nothing more than apathy. I find it amazing that someone can believe in the absence of spirit with the same vigor through which I am sure of its existence. My stance, mind you, is not one of judgment, but of fascination and curiosity. Further, I have often found atheists I have come in contact with to be driven mainly by their own misery. This, though, is in no way an accurate description of George. I have always experienced him as a rather centered and joyful human being.

Consequently, I have long had an interest in discussing the topic with George. As I have read his book, this feeling has intensified. The book itself is essentially a series of rants, opinions and observations on everything from the meaning of life to the overwhelming nature of Robin Williams. It is a wry and engaging effort which I recommend highly. My desire to engage George in a dialogue came to bear as I reached page 107 with the beginning of a chapter entitled "Tyler's Letter." This particular chapter offers a letter written to George by a young man named Tyler questioning the atheism he became aware of in an interview George had participated in. The letter is printed in its entirety, and is followed by a point by point retort by George. All of a sudden, I found myself inspired to retort to George's retort. And so, I shall. I feel like addressing some of George's views in a public forum (which I will alert him to) might be a really cool way to kick off a compelling discourse with my buddy George (although I should mention that, as I am reprinting a small portion of his book without his permission and I am unsure if I am inappropriately crossing a boundary, if he asks me to take the post down, I will).

Finally, the book (Non Coloring Book) can be purchased on (you can download it for $4- major bargain). Also, the five albums that George (last name Hrab) has recorded can be found on or (if you are a fan of the music of Frank Zappa or any other groundbreaking artist , I promise you that you won't be sorry).

Okay, here we go:

Early in his letter, Tyler makes the assertion:

...none of our modern day miracles and inventions are possible without some influence of God.

George answered:

I think that to say that NONE of our modern day miracles are possible without God takes away a huge amount of the credit from the incredibly hard work put in by inventors, scientists, authors, designers, architects, etc. WHY does an unseen hand need to be the driving influence? I see this as akin to the myth of GENIUS. One of the most insulting things someone can say to me is, "Oh, you have a gift" or "O, you're just a genius, you're so good at this." I work INCREDIBLY hard at what I do- it's often like pulling teeth. I struggle and work diligently to write material, and the only time that things come easily to me, is when all of the hard work that I've put in the past allows some pool of "talent credit" from which to draw. Let's put it this way- when The Beatles were "discovered" by the man who would become their manager (Brian Epstein) they had already played over 1200 gigs in Germany and at shitty little clubs all over England. They weren't geniuses, they
WORKED REALLY HARD, and absorbed all of the influences around them better than anyone else at the time. Charlie Parker use to practice OVER 13 HOURS A DAY when he was your age. Imagine that! It wasn't God that was giving him his tone and ability to master the sax, it was his diligence.


I find it curious (even a little sad) that you receive a statement like, "you have a gift" as a slap in the face. It seems like a dangerous bit of projection to assume that an individuals acknowledgment of your talent is somehow an indictment of the level of effort you place into your craft. It seems that in your vigor to dismiss the idea of God given talent, you are creating natural talent and hard work as mutually exclusive.

What seems to be thrust forth here is the idea that if I learned to play the guitar, recruited three other guys, and played twelve hundred gigs throughout Europe, the result would surely set the world of music afire. There is no question in my mind that vigilance and tenacity were major factors in the success of The Beatles, though I would add that no number of gigs were complicit in John Lennon's ability to take the longings of his heart and pontifications of his mind and emit them into musical and lyrical poetry. Is it your contention that Michael Bolton is simply not as committed to his craft as Paul McCartney; or is it possible that he simply does not possess the same level of God given talent?

In the same vein, especially considering that you are a golf enthusiast, do you sense that any amount of driving and putting could possibly put you on the level of a Tiger Woods? From what I've read, Woods commitment to practice borders on maniacal, though there are surely many others on the PGA tour who could practice from morning to night and never achieve the same results. There must be something innate and specific which sets Tiger apart.

As to where this "something" originated from, it's a different (and longer) debate altogether. My sense of spirit has always been something closer to a creative energy in the universe (a universal subconscious mind, if you will) than some dude in a cascading robe with a ZZ Top beard. Regardless, if people enter the human world with certain elements which create them as different from any soul who has ever (or will ever) walk the earth, it speaks to something beyond their bones and blood and skin. This, I believe, is the spirit. Like it or not Mr. Hrab, I have always found your unique spirit remarkable, and your God given talent undeniable.

Tyler went on to mention:

I am familiar with the basics of many philosophers from Aristotle to Hobbes and also read my fair share from Christian theologists like C.S. Lewis, my personal favorite.

To which George responded:

I like C.S. Lewis a lot as well, and enjoyed "On Christianity," and his argument of "The Ultimate Good" is a convincing one. The thing about C.S. Lewis that bugged me, is that while he was going through his own trying times with his sick wife, he had a hard time buying his OWN sermons. I was reminded of that at a funeral of a good friend of mine, where the priest giving the final rites got choked up and couldn't talk. This priest was a friend of the deceased as well. Here he had spent the entire service talking about how our friend Lenny was now happy in heavan, and how all would be right and he'd be a peace, but when it got time to say a final goodbye, the guy couldn't do it. I was touched by his sadness, but ultimately pissed of that it seemed EVEN THE PRIEST wasn't buying his own bullshit. Argh.


Once again, it appear that you have made an assumption about mutual exclusivity that I'm not sure holds water. Why can't this priest GENUINELY believe that his friend Lenny is going to a better place AND have feelings of sadness about never seeing him again? Why does one beget the other? Does C.S. Lewis having trouble holding strong to his faith during a time of great crisis imply an insincerity? Faith implies believing that there are often reasons for life's challenges that are not immediately apparent. The fact that our faith gets tested; the fact that faith is often challenging to maintain; the fact that faith (by it's very nature) waxes and wanes; is why we call it FAITH. If faith was easy, more people would have it. Faith does not mean an absence of doubt. It means continuing to seek acceptance of "what is" rather than constantly assuming things ought to be other than they are.

Tyler explains:

…as I’m driving to work and marveling at how amazing our world is that all this works, plain and simply, it works; somehow everything down to the atoms and molecules that have organized themselves into systems and ways to create organisms like humans and trees to simple physics of gravity all work so perfectly.

George retorts:

Well- yes it works. It works amazingly well- but PERFECTLY? Tell that to someone with cancer. Tell that to a parent of a child with Down Syndrome. Heck- tell that to the last woolly mammoth. Do you realize that 90% of EVERY SPECIES THAT EVER EXISTED has gone extinct? There are SO MANY FLAWS in the “design” (and</span> I really hesitate to use that word) of the universe (hell- just humans) that any “ultimate designer” should be embarrassed. Let alone an OMNIPOTENT designer. What’s the point of my appendix? What’s the point of my tonsils? Why do people get diabetes? WHY DID I LOSE MY HAIR? Have you seen March of the Penguins? It’s a really amazing film. These Emperor Penguins have to go through INCREDIBLE struggles of walking 70 miles in sub-zero temperatures to procreate. Is this really the most efficient way for penguins to boink? Really? To me- it makes MUCH more sense that all of these anomalies have developed over time through incredibly long processes of trial and error, and that the most efficient (if not necessarily the “best”) paths of functionality have developed ON THEIR OWN. There is also the hazard of looking at a functioning system from the outside, rather than from the inside. The universe works so well because the universe works so well. This is a circular argument that makes sense to us because we live in a universe that WORKS SO WELL. Any surviving Neanderthals would argue that the universe DIDN’T work so well for them. It’s the same as the gambler’s fallacy of seeing patterns that aren’t really there. Look, humans have survived as long as we have because we’re pattern-seeking animals. We got really good at recognizing the patterns of the seasons, the patterns of which foods are good to eat, the patterns of what will kill us, and what will help us survive. Unfortunately, that great ability to see real patterns, also sometimes manifests itself by making us see patterns that AREN’T REALLY THERE. To ME, ultimately the concept of God is a presupposed pattern recognition that isn’t really there. (Check out
Skinner’s experiments with his skinner box.)

It is curious that your assertion of a "lack of perfection" is based on the idea that you believe that you know what "perfect" would look like. You have invented a narrative that proclaims that a "perfectly designed universe" would not include cancer, down syndrome or the extinction of animals. How do you know? Who's to say that these elements are not an intrinsic part of a universe that is functioning exactly as it's supposed to be?

I have met people who proclaim that cancer turned out to be the greatest gift they have ever received; that their perspective on the world and gratitude for their blessings was informed mightily by their health challenge. I have met parents of down syndrome children who would tell you that they wouldn't have it any other way; believing that their child has provided them blessings that a "normal" child never could have. Further, without extinction (and death for that matter) this world would quickly become crowded to the point of being uninhabitable. How do you know that this is not a brilliant piece of a grand design?

By the way, I am not proclaiming to be privy to some secret knowledge of the design of the universe. My quest for humility demands that I be willing to admit that there is really no way to know for sure. And yet, it seems feeble evidence to suggest that your inability to see rhyme or reason in all things is evidence that there is no God. It is clear that you have many questions that perplex you; as do I. I often recall a wise man once telling me that if you could take all the knowledge available in the world and apply it to a pie graph, it would set up in the following fashion: one small sliver of the pie would be "what you know;" another small sliver of the pie would be "what you know you don't know;" and the remainder of the pie would be "what you don't know you don't know." There is a lot that I don't know I don't know. I believe spirituality is, to some extent, waking up every morning and reveling in how much I don't know. The ability to not have to know (which I was plagued by for many years) is a wonderful liberation. This is why I put much less stock in intellectualism that I once did... I'll take wisdom over smarts any day.

Lastly, while the work of B.F. Skinner's is certainly interesting, I don't see how a rodent's propensity to hoard pellets tell us there is no design to the universe. The reality of Operant Conditioning or the idea that we, in some ways, respond to reinforcing stimulus, in no way suggests that there is not a higher order beyond our scope. Considering that there is more than 90% of our brains that we do not know how to use, how can we possibly believe that there is not much beyond our grasp?

Tyler asks:

One thing that I’m hoping you might enlighten me on that I have yet to get an answer from any of my agnostic or atheist friends is how anyone can logically think about our universe and our world and not come to the conclusion that there is without a doubt a higher being that has set this all into motion and created a design that works so perfectly for everything.

George offers:

Well, I can’t really say ANYTHING “without a doubt.” I love my
doubt, I embrace my doubt the way most people embrace their faith.
To me, EVERY ADVANCE in the history of humanity is based on
doubt. “Ubi dubium, ibi libertas.” With doubt, come FREEDOM.

A person believing that there is, without a doubt, a higher being is not the same thing as saying that this person lives a life devoid of doubt. Once again, not mutually exclusive. I have no doubt in my mind and heart in the existence of a higher power; but that does not mean that my ability to transcend the innate imperfections of my humanity and plug into spirit is something I successfully pull of in any and all situations. I believe that a part of the "perfect design of the universe" IS that we are imperfect. Through our imperfections, we experience doubt, fear, envy, selfishness, etc.- and this is how we learn... this is how our journey of consciousness expands. I fully agree that critical thinking and our ability to question the world around us is a big part of our freedom. Let's be cautious of throwing all those with faith in the bin with extremists and fundamentalists (as I am as put off by them as I assume you are).

Tyler proclaims:

…you still need an existence of an originator to start off the whole process…

George argues:

WHY? Who started the originator? Why does the “originator” get a free pass when it comes to needing someone to start the process. Who was God’s dad? I have NEVER heard a good answer concerning this Aquinas argument; it seems that you could keep reducing the question eternally. I like the answer of: NO ONE STARTED THIS.

Again, never having cottoned to the idea that God is a person of some sort, I would agree wholeheartedly with the idea of circular thinking. My sense of God is an eternal energy in the universe from which we draw power. As energy can neither be created or destroyed, perhaps that informs your quandry regarding a starting point.

Finally, Tyler shares:

…it seems to me that one of the only main differences between you and I is that when you trace it all back, the last step before the final answer as to our origins is a leap of faith…

...and George answers:

Well, yeah. I can honestly say that I have NO faith. In ANYTHING. Really! I have TRUST in many, many things, but faith based on NO evidence I have no time for. I have TRUST that my friends will help in times of need because they have in the past and I’ve observed it and remembered. I have TRUST in the Constitution because I’ve read it and understand and have seen its strength and power. I have TRUST in the process of science and the self-correcting nature of biology and astronomy and all of the disciplines. I have TRUST in the existence of atoms and molecules, and even though I haven’t SEEN them, I still can learn about how they DIRECTLY influence the observable world around me, and if someone were to discover that atoms and molecules were in fact something else, I would have TRUST that the process of determining whether he or she was right would be done in the same manor of ALL scientific discoveries. I have TRUST in my family because they have proven themselves time and again to me. This may seem harsh, but I truly believe that FAITH leads to people IGNORING what’s ACTUALLY happening, and relying on what they HOPE should be happening. Thomas Paine said it best: “One way to guarantee failure and unhappiness is to believe that one’s feelings can abrogate the function of reason.” I have TRUST in the function of reason.

First, I do not just have faith in God, I TRUST God. My faith has served me far more consistently than electricity, my car, my family of origin and many other things that we rely on based on past history. It is interesting to me that people of no faith often seem to feel the need to prove that there is no God, while most people of faith (in my experience) do not feel the need to PROVE anything: they just know (and the people of faith who are constantly trying to prove something are the ones I stay away from).

To your statement, "I truly believe that FAITH leads to people IGNORING what’s ACTUALLY happening," I would respond that, "People of faith tend to accept the world for what it is, while those of no faith consistently crave that things be different than they are." Let's face it: this is pretty much the basis of your book. While I enjoy your insights immensely, the thrust of the majority of chapters in your publication is the idea that the people and things around you ought to be different than they are. Don't get me wrong, snarky superiority continues to be a pool in which I often choose to wade; but I have come to understand that my frustration and annoyance at the world around me is not a function of people being moronic or things being ridiculous; it is the presence of my own impatience and lack of gratitude. As my consciousness has expanded, my capacity to spot and rectify these character defects has vastly improved.

Finally, I hope and pray that nothing I have proffered offends you. My sense is that, like myself, you are open to outside opinions and find yourself better for having kept an open mind. I would love to hear your retorts to my retorts... and if you have an interest, it would be a great pleasure to print your responses in their entirety. I hope these words find you well and that your journey is bringing you an abundance of joy and blessings.

God bless you,

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Hey Michael- Are we in the recovery community doing others a disservice by not talking more about the aspect of a relationship with Christ/or another Higher power?
The elements of 12 step programs point towards a surrender to self and a reliance on a higher power.
How do we effectively talk to others that are lost, without offending an Anti-religious person- but still being real, and honest, and not compromising our faith.
I have realized that struggle of communication with the lost is worth the battle. If I can plant some seeds, and help lead someone toward the peace that I have found- - it is worth any amount of discomfort in my head.

What are your thoughts?

This is really a superb question, (a) because so many of my readers are either in, or on the periphery of, one recovery group or another; and (b) because it is such an an emotionally charged query.

I would agree that as time has gone on, there has been an undeniable watering down of what is most critical in the path of 12 step recovery. There is no question that the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is NOT a book about abstaining from substances, but a text about awakening to and living a spiritual life. This, naturally begs the question of what it means to be spiritual; in other words, "What is spirituality?" While I do not claim to have a succinct answer (nor do I think that one really exists), I would offer the following definition: Spirituality is the process of connecting one's spirit to its source. From my vantage point, what that source happens to be (or what we believe it to be) is really not of consequence. If one can intuit that there is more to their being than flesh and bones and blood (i.e. something indefinable which makes them uniquely themselves), it would follow that that they have "a spirit." If one has a spirit, than that spirit must come from somewhere. And so, the process of connecting one's spirit to the place from whence it came is the process of spirituality.

In The Big Book (which is what I will heretofore call the book Alcoholics Anonymous), Bill Wilson (the primary author), twice uses the phrase, "I was rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence" (once in the chapter called "Bill's Story" and again in the chapter called "There is a Solution.") The fourth dimension of existence to which he is referring is the spiritual dimension. The other three dimensions are (of course) the physical, the mental and the emotional. Simply by exiting the womb, human beings have an awareness of these latter three dimensions (that is, we all know that we have a body, we have a mind and we have feelings). The spiritual dimension, while equally as real and present as the other three, is the only one of the four to which we must awaken to, or find themselves plagued by the perceived reality of an absent dimension. A human being will then be open (essentially) to only 75% of their existence. This reality, it would seem, would then give a person the illusion of being 'incomplete.' If you ask an addict of any kind what the primary driving force of their disease is (or was), they will (in one way or another) speak of a sense of feeling incomplete (of trying to fill a hole). Therefore, the process of recovery (at least in so far as the 12 steps go) is the process of opening that fourth dimension; creating a new reality where we (the addict) no longer feel compelled to reach to exterior sources to find that sense of completion.

I believe that almost all people have within them the fundamental understanding that this reality exists (the exception, of course, is the atheist. There are very few atheists in the world. Most people who call themselves such, upon closer examination, will find that they are actually agnostic. An atheist is one who actively believes that there is no such thing as a higher power of any kind. An agnostic is a skeptic who believes that it is impossible to really know if there is or there isn't, and further tends to feel that if there is a higher power, it has no interest in them.)

In my own experience, I have found that most people's struggle with spirit tends to boil down to two basic areas. The first revolves around a concept of god which was forced upon them in childhood. The second is an inability to decipher the difference between spirituality and religion. They are often experiencing a sense of rebellion or disappointment more so than genuine disbelief. To these individuals, I tend to offer the idea that if spirituality is the process of connecting your spirit to its source; than organized religion is simply one way of doing so. If you are drawn to connect your spirit to its source via a specific community with a specific set of dogma who choose to gather in a specific house of god... lovely. But if that is not your cup of tea, there are many other ways to create this connection; yoga, tai chi, astral projection and transcendental meditation are but a few. Much like organized religion, they are all SUBSETS of spirituality.

A.A., and it's sister programs, are not religion; nor do they preach religion (it is true that A.A. actually branched off of a Christian fellowship called The Oxford Group back in the early 30's and that they initially used Jesus Christ as their sole higher power, though that element was stripped out of the message very early on). Therefore, the Step Two question, "Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a power greater than myself?" (Big Book page 47), asks us to jump through a pretty wide hoop. Are you WILLING to believe? If a person can be asked the following question: "Is it in any way possible that there might be a power (or energy) in this universe more powerful than you and your mind and your little batch of problems?"; and they can answer, "yes, I suppose it is POSSIBLE," they have completed step two and are well on their way. The book tells us, "As soon as [a person] can say that [they] do believe, are [are] willing to believe, we emphatically assure [them] that [they] are on [their] way. It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built." (Big Book page 47).

And so, the initial question,
Are we in the recovery community doing others a disservice by not talking more about the aspect of a relationship with Christ/or another Higher power?, can be answered (in my opinion), "yes, we most certainly are." The reason that A.A. has gone from a nearly 75% success rate in the 30's and 40's to an approximately 5% success ratio today, has all to do with our giving people the impression that coming to our meetings and listening to war stories and drinking coffee and eating cookies and smoking cigarettes and accumulating phone numbers and hugging and sharing and crying will get them well; and IT WILL NOT. If they are true alcoholics (or addicts), that advice will KILL them. It has been proven over the course of hundreds and thousands of years, human measures will never heal the illness of addiction. Without some sort of higher power, we really have nothing of use to offer anyone (unless sitting in little church rooms and bitching and moaning about your problems is garnering you something positive).

Ought we be cautious about introducing spirituality to the skeptic? Of course. Ought we shove anything down their throats? No. Ought we preach to anyone from some moral highground? Never. We owe them the same love and patience and understanding that we were so freely afforded upon our entry into this new and overwhelming world. But if we allow our own co-dependency or people pleasing to keep us from delivering our simple yet powerful message, we fail. If we place making friends ahead of saving lives, we are lost.

"I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible."

God bless you,

Friday, July 4, 2008


Sometimes I feel as if I'm built for a society that went in a different direction than where we are today. I thought that our society would value deep thinking, civility, conscientiousness, and so forth. Instead it seems as if I live in a world where everything is OK as long as we get our daily fix of celebrity gossip, fast food, and gas guzzling vehicles. Then I become even more frustrated because I participate in the damage by pointing fingers at all the behaviors of others that I don't like and eventually I begin to feel selfish and arrogant because I realize that I'm off course from my mission.

I also wonder why the world is a freaking oyster for the people who have no remorse about taking advantage of others, and pulling the wool over the eyes of the masses.. OK in fairness their are a few that get caught.

I hate it. I can't put blinders on and suckle up to the pump. Yet, I think if I did I might actually get some of the things that I want, but isn't me thinking that making me part of the sickness? I feel like a walking contradiction.

On top of all this I feel like I just can't keep up with all the junk mail, and little shit things you have to do to make/keep a home together. Does this life always seem like an uphill climb? Is it supposed to?


First, allow me to express gratitude for your clarity and cogency- what a powerful way to kick things off. I hear frustration in your words. I hear rage and fear and despondency. I honor those feelings and identify with them in ways I had, perhaps, not yet understood previous to the arrival of your question.

It seems that a reasonable place to begin is the question of where the true challenge lies? Are you struggling with the state of our world or are you struggling with the lens through which you choose to view it? My sense is that solution lies in the latter. It appears that the sense of dis-ease you are experiencing can be attributed to the twin thieves of expectation and judgment. Your expectation tells you that things should be other than they are, while your judgment adds that you should be dealing with it differently than you are. Dangerous word, should (its sister, shouldn't, also to be avoided.)

Perhaps the faulty construct is the idea that something is amiss. Is it possible that all is well? Is it possible that everything occurring within your life and within the world at this very moment is exactly as it ought to be? I'm not saying that it is... I'm simply asking if it is possible? Bear in mind, I do not know the answer. Not for you or for myself.

I, too, find myself disappointed, at times, with the state of our world. I often feel ensconced by consumerism, incivility and lack of scruples. Though, I realize that when I let go of expectation, there is no longer room for disappointment. This allows for greater efficiency in terms of energy outlay. Rather than pouring precious energy into perceived ills of the world (where I have little to no control), I find myself concentrating on who I want to be and who i want to associate myself with (where I possess great power).

I am then careful to intuit that how well I pull off the aforementioned, will vary day to day based on an unending array of factors, both internal and external. That is to say, I don't judge myself for drifting off course and wading in the mire of my powerlessness. This is humanity. Nothing, if not maddeningly imperfect. Remembering this, brings self-love and self-acceptance; losing site of it, brings self-hatred and self-condemnation.

All in all, Contrafiction, you are given the choice, every moment, to be a Judger or to be a Watcher:

The Judger says, "I point fingers... I am part of the problem... I am Selfish and Arrogant."
The Watcher says, "I point fingers... I wonder what leads me to do that?... is it easier to look at shortcomings of others than at my own pain?"

The Judger says, "Look how all the remorseless people have it better than me... it's not fair."
The Watcher says, "Interesting how, with little knowledge, I experience certain people as having easier lives than me... why do i compare my insides to other's outsides?

The Judger says, "I sometimes want to suckle at the pump to get what I want... I am part of the sickness... I am a walking contradiction."
The Watcher says, "I am sometimes tempted to put my wants before my ethics. Wow, it's remarkable how tempting 'the road most traveled can be.' No wonder humans have struggled with this question since Adam and Eve.

Finally, you might find that the energy expelled on that which you
cannot control, is intimately connected to your seeming inability to deal peacefully with what you can control (i.e. 'the little shit').

No, my friend, life is not designed to be an uphill climb... it's not designed to be anything. It will always be as easy or as challenging as our perspective will allow.

God bless you,

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Warm Welcome

Hello friends-
Welcome to Ask Sustenance. What a pleasure to have you as a participant and/or interested observer. This new undertaking is the result of many requests that have come to me through clients and trusted loved ones, and I am thrilled to engage in a new way of being of service to my fellows. What I am creating a clearing for here are all queries of an emotional and/or spiritual nature to which I may provide some guidance. Allow me to be clear that I am not touting myself as an expert or some wise sage- so much as a professional Life Coach with a certain amount of experience, strength and hope paired with the expertise to convey certain insights in a manner which I pray proves useful. It's a wide hoop, so don't be shy. Relationships, God, family of origin, boundaries, communication, resentment- it's all fair game. I would ask that the questions be signed in some manner (intitials, an alias, a chosen phrase, whatever- only that I may have something to respond to directly). I don't claim to have answers- quite frankly, I am far more interested in providing more questions. My hope is that we might create a community where the questions you choose to submit may help not just your singular situation, but the lives of many you have yet to meet. I have very little agenda into where we go from here. I know that I feel led. And I know that I would like to have you along for the ride.

God bless you,