Monday, July 18, 2016

Keep it simple, stupid (KISS): my tribute to AA

Ever since I joined Princeton Meeting's "surrender group"--a group for recovering "ego-holic" based on the Twelve Steps--thirty years ago, I have owed a great debt to AA. In an article I wrote about Herrymon Mauer and the "Tao of Quakerism," I wrote about this group:
The "Surrender Group" was started in the early 1970s a few years after Herrymon joined AA and turned his life around. Its format was simple: AA’s Twelve Steps were re-cast, in deference to Quaker practice, as "Ten Queries." Each week participants would focus on a single query: "Are you willing to make Truth the center of your life?" or "Are you willing to give up compulsions and devices?" The questions were simple, but the responses were often deep and challenging. Participants were encouraged to share from their personal experience, and to help others to understand how we could in fact change our lives. I had never experienced anything quite like it before, or since. What made the "Surrender Group" dynamic was the presence of recovering alcoholics deeply committed to spiritual transformation, and the presence of Herrymon, whose wisdom and humor pervaded the gathering.
Lately I've benefited from attending Al Alanon meetings and learning how to live with loved ones who are alcoholics, or the children of alcoholics. This poem was inspired by one of the most profound slogans of AA, "Keep it simple, stupid."


"Keep it simple, stupid,"
Is the best advice I know
For those who are addicted
To drugs or booze or ego.

We think we know the truth
When we’re living in a dream
Created by our wishes
Where nothing's what it seems.

A world of stinking thinking
We call a garden of delight.
"Easy does it," "One day at time":
These slogans guide us right.

And bring us to our higher power
When they’re lived and not just spoken.
Keep it simple, keep it real,
Can help us when we’re broken.

So let’s be guided by the light
Which we cannot control.
Let’s stop trying to be clever
And listen to our soul.

This world is real,
And so's the next.
Let’s not pretend we can escape
By words or drugs or sex.

Let’s keep it simple, keep it real.
Let’s listen to our hearts.
Let’s be honest with each other.
That’s the best way to start.

That’s all I know
That’s all I’m led to say.
"Keep it simple, stupid,"
Is the best, the safest way.

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