Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Steps and Traditions

In A.A., as I'm sure everybody knows by now, there are 12 of each.

What's interesting is that they pull in opposite directions.  The Steps look forward from the present into the future (but taking an individual's past into full account); they are primarily about change.  

The Traditions - as the name itself implies! - are a look into the past; they are based on empirical discoveries that A.A. as a whole made in its first 20 years or so, and codify these discoveries.  They are primarily about preservation.

They are, in other words, "like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."

The Traditions, it's sometimes said, are "Steps for the Groups."  They are foundational principles - and in fact they are the "cornerstone" that allow the Steps to be in the business of redesigning human beings from the ground up.  They are the things that make real revolution - great, sweeping change - possible.  They are the house built upon the rock so that the wind - the Spirit, that is - can blow where and as it will.

The church knows what its "Traditions" are.  What's that old Lancelot Andrewes formula?  "One Canon, two Testaments, three Creeds, four General Councils, five centuries and the series of Fathers in that period determine the boundaries of our faith.”

The church doesn't quite know what its Steps are, though; it sometimes doesn't even seem to know it's in the business of  helping people get rebuilt from the ground up.  It needs to be much more clear and specific about this; it needs to get clear about it, itself, in fact.

Pay attention to what the monastics have said; they're the adepts of our faith - our Gurus.  If you can't be a mendicant friar - and most can't - then be a Benedictine, and pray seven times a day.   Follow a Rule.   The church could offer its own modified Rule, in fact; why not?    Such a rule (or set of Steps) would be completely optional; nobody forces anybody to do the Steps in A.A. - but if everybody around you is working through them, and talking about the huge difference they are making in their lives - well, perhaps you will get jealous and maybe give them a try, too.

Pay attention to what works.  Pay attention, too, to the fact that the Steps are reports; the formula is to use the past tense and the first person plural.  "We admitted...."  "[We] made a searching and fearless moral inventory...."  "[We] humbly asked [God] to remove our shortcomings."

No comments: