Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Freedom in Form--or Why We Have a Program

We joke sometimes about all of the “suggestions” in AA. The steps are suggestions, and other guidance like “Don’t drink, go to meetings and pray” are also suggestions. But we are also told, “Yeah—only suggestions and death is the consequence of not following them.”

It’s about structure and rules and order and form. All things that alcoholics just naturally resist.

So today I read something great about the benefit of form and structure.

This is from a book by Stanley Fish called, “How to Write a Sentence”. Fish writes:

“A famous sonnet by William Wordsworth begins, ‘Nuns fret not their convent’s narrow room;/And hermits are contented with their cells;/and students with their pensive citadels.” Wordsworth’s point is that what nuns and hermits and students do is facilitated rather than hindered by the confines and formal structures they inhabit; because those structures constrain freedom (they remove, says Wordsworth, “the weight of too much liberty”), they enable movements in a defined space…and then every movement can carry a precise significance.”

Fish says, “This then is my theology: You shall tie yourself to forms and the forms shall set you free.”

Following the “suggestions” of our program, working the steps, living within the traditions then also can set us free. I’m happy to tie myself up in AA.

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