Our primary purpose is whatever
“I am going to continue to walk that dog.”
Occasionally, we get to hear choice little kernels of wisdom, and this one came from a formerly homeless guy named James, outside of a meeting I like to attend on Sunday mornings. I try not to make a big deal about these meetings at a public level, because the overarching group of which this particular morning meeting is connected to likes to make a pretty big deal about maintaining anonymity. It’s even in one of the overarching group’s traditions, which number a dozen or so. And so I won’t tell you the name of the overarching group, but most of you can figure it out, and if you’re having trouble, it can be found, as talk-show host Craig Ferguson once put it in a monologue, toward the front of the phone book.
I like to go to this particular meeting, because it’s less orthodox than others; it’s kind of the hippie druid pantheistic meeting in town. Some meetings affiliated with the above-mentioned overarching group can get a little bit god-squady, as in people talking about how you need to find God and find Him now, and the God they’re talking about can only be found in the Bible, and in some meetings, people are even what I call “rocking the J-man,” which means they talk a lot about how accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is absolutely essential to not only their making progress on the path of recovery, but in your making progress on the path, too.
Now, I happen to think that God, or god, or g*d, or great spirit or goddess or Grandfather or loving cosmos or Cthulhu or Flying Spaghetti Monster or billions of dancing nature sprites doing the zampoughi to Cannibal & the Headhunters’ version of “Land of 1,000 Dances” or even nothing at all, is a personal matter. And when I began to come around the meetings of the above-mentioned overarching group, I was pretty freaked out about having to submit to some pentecostal-style altar call in order to keep coming around. I have nothing against other people doing that sort of thing, but if those were going to be the terms of me putting down the bottle and the bong, I’d have to white-knuckle it.
Fortunately, I found that there were other people who had the same aversion to mainstream evangelical Christianity as I did, and they managed to stay not only what we like to call “clean and sober” over time, but they were able to embrace the dozen sequential components, or steps, in the process outlined by the founders of the above-mentioned overarching group, and work them without placing themselves under the yoke of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson or the Pope, and they didn’t have to register as members of the Republican Party, either.
So this little group I mention meets in a converted school in Sacramento’s Elmhurst neighborhood every Sunday morning at 11, and I just have to give thanks for it being there, and for the people who have kept it going over the years. It begins, like other meetings of the above-mentioned overarching group do pretty much everywhere, with a reading entitled “How It Works,” but there are places in the course of the reading where people in the room balk like chickens or hum like angels, a touch of irreverence that I always found endearing and refreshing. The meeting closes with a portion of “The Charge of the Goddess,” which is a shade different from the more commonplace Lord’s Prayer you hear recited — a prayer whose use can offend those of us who don’t profess Christianity — or the more ecumenical Serenity Prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr.
In between, the meeting features people getting up and talking, usually around a theme established by the meeting’s chairperson via a reading from a text, about what’s going on — what’s really going on — in their lives, with often brutal honesty and self-reflection. This is something that I find especially helpful, because it’s all too easy to forget that we’re not the only person who is forced to navigate patches of difficulty in day-to-day living. I’m really not sure about you, but these days I like to experience connection to a community, rather than feel like I’m adrift on my own little desert island, watching ships pass in the distance with no awareness of me.
And sometimes — or, strike that, oftentimes — the conversations afterward are the best part. What I think James was trying to say was that he’s going to continue to walk the talk. Somehow, dunno about you, I find the metaphor of continuing to walk that dog slightly cooler.
And so: I am going to continue to walk that dog, too. —Jackson Griffith