Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Thoughts And Action"

Happy new year, all, and welcome to 2011. It's kind of crazy to me, seeing those numbers clock over. It makes me think of that joke about how if this is the future, where's my flying car? I'm down in Pacific Grove this weekend, getting ready to play piano for church services this morning. It's a rainy weekend, not just here, but for much of California. I'm staying at my friend's house, which is a short walk from the beach. I even took a moment last night to go down there and say hello to the ocean. There wasn't a car or another person in sight, just the inky blackness of the water, crested by pale waves. I thought of how nice the silence was, then chuckled at how, with the constant crashing ocean tides, it wasn't really silent at all.

Being the only human around is a good thing for me, from time to time, and something I don't get to enjoy very often. I'm someone who really needs time alone with his thoughts, time to examine what's happening on the inside. If I don't, the inner chatter doesn't stop, it just increases. Moments like the one from last night are a little like clearing off a cluttered desk. I sit down at a spot I sit at often, but instead of just doing the paperwork I normally do, instead of just getting done what needs done, I take the time to actually sort through things. I can see scraps left over I don't need anymore, finally give my attention to details I've been putting off, and throw out old unneeded and unwanted junk.

I'm reading a great book right now--"Fire In The Belly" by Sam Keen. It's about men and masculinity, both today and throughout history. The author has a great sense of humor and seems to me to have a wonderful grasp of the real. His book is well-researched and thoughtful, and it's been awhile since I've so many times recognized the 'truth' of someone's writing while reading. For any man who's ever wondered about what it means to be a man, I highly recommend it. For any woman, too, for that matter. From almost the first moment I started reading, I found myself liking the author, feeling that he understood not just me as a man, but knew the questions I asked inside, knew what drove me, understood my search inside. I've said to others that--if I still drank--this would be a guy I'd love to sit down and have a beer with.

He talks about so many subjects, so many different ways men have defined themselves and how they have found meaning in that old question of just what does it mean to be a man. One of them is the idea of a man as someone who looks inward, who examines himself. He takes the time to think about himself, who he is and why he does what he does. This part really spoke to me; that's a big part of my own manhood. I'm not materially successful; I'm flat-out terrible at sports (with one or two exceptions). But I have found great strength and courage from leading the examined life.

Men aren't necessarily supposed to be thinking creatures. Some of us have great difficulty in working the program because it asks us to do some major introspection. My sponsor likes to say (and I agree) that working the fourth step and taking the fifth is what really separates the men from the boys in Recovery. Sure, you're willing to admit you're powerless, ask for help and turn your life over to a higher power, but are you willing to look with a cold eye at your own shit? Are you willing to say, "yeah, there's some parts of me, who I am and how I live, that probably need to change"? Are you man enough to go on to the eighth and ninth steps, to admit the times you were wrong and try to make it up to those you've harmed?

All of the above requires thinking. Acting without thinking? That's the old way. Thinking without acting? Also no good anymore. Thinking, and then taking action--that's what it's like now. Not always, not every moment, but more often than not. To me, that's a big part of what it means to be a man: thoughtful action.

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