A Power Greater Than Ourselves

October has been very good to me. I’ll miss it. Rain and chill, overcast skies; one could squint and imagine oneself anywhere in reality as opposed to Southern California, which I never thought quite qualified. Also, there was Halloween — still is, actually — but I pretty much ran the subject into the ground in recent weeks.

Flailing around for observations on the weekend, offbeat or otherwise, I see that a kind of garage-rock band (at least that’s how I found them listed under music on this paper’s website: “garage rock, punk rock”) called Mrs. Magician will be playing tonight (if you’re reading this on Thursday the 28th) at the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown and then Friday night at the Soda Bar (where I once walked in thinking they served only soda and woke up in Marseilles two weeks later) on El Cajon Boulevard. I’ve never heard Mrs. Magician, though I’ll bite as to why-the-name? But I glimpsed their (seven-inch) record cover of someone smoking a cigarette through facial bandages and immediately flashed on the name of the recording: “There Is No God.”

The record’s name did, indeed, seem to be — and in the most ironic way — a God thing. That is, I’ve been issued 30-some pages of homework from the program I’m in. My homework is on the second of the famous 12 steps used for everything from chemical dependence recovery to gambling, overeating, and sex. Step Two is: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Several pages are given over to interview five friends, neighbors, or kids on your block as to how they came to believe such a thing. One hopes one doesn’t encounter a series of atheists because that is what “power greater than ourselves” is: secret, sneaky code for — God.

To see a rock single (I guess) titled in such a way seemed momentarily significant, though it was unclear exactly how. “The cover art,” a band member is quoted online, “is a picture I found of a flood survivor from the 1930s. Like our name, the picture is odd and ambiguous, and I like simple images as opposed to something crazy that’s hard to focus on.” The band’s name and the photo may be ambiguous, but there is nothing ambiguous about that title.

On the heels of awareness that I have yet to do any paperwork on Step Two, I was put in mind of a couple of other things: the coincidence of Mrs. Magician’s song title and my unaddressed assignment and a New Yorker cartoon I saw a few years ago. Two monks are walking through an abbey or monastery of some sort. One says to the other, “That is so God.” Maybe you had to be there. Maybe not. The other thing I thought of was a gig I played years ago with José Sinatra and the Troy Dante Inferno, not only at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla but as an exhibit in that museum — an installation piece, supposedly, called “Performance Anxiety,” in which we played and actually recorded behind Plexiglas, as if we were in a zoo, while museum patrons filed past, smiling at us like we were Animatronic Piltdown men.

Anyway, back to Step Two and my being somewhat whelmed before I begin. Possibly, you could help me here, especially those reading this online. Would you mind terribly — say, if you ever did come to believe that a power greater than yourself could restore you to sanity — stating how that came about, how it’s working out for you these days, and maybe even what the nature of the insanity might have been? That last bit isn’t strictly necessary, though it might make for lively reading. Meanwhile, you may feel free to have fun at my expense on the comments page beneath the column, stating how many times you’ve seen me around town passed out in some hedges or puking on my shoes. Go on, have fun, log on — come on down and join the gang! In return, I promise not to come sucking around, apologizing to you for something or other when I get to Step Nine and have to make amends and embarrass the crap out of everybody. Deal?

Meanwhile, I must get a copy of that record. Guess I’ll try M-Theory. Possibly I can transcribe the lyrics onto my Step Two worksheet. Even if unhelpful in that particular area, I’m still grateful to Mrs. Magician for such a thought-provoking moment. By the way, Woody Allen has a title for your next record, the sequel to “There Is No God.” That would be, “Not Only That, But Try to Get a Plumber on Sunday.”

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Being a member of the secret society known as AA, I'm familiar with the 12 steps. I believe you are well qualified to join, and hope you do. I enjoy your writing, so I'll offer this in the hope that it will allow you to write for longer into the future. I'm insane enough now, but substantially less so than when I drank. Somehow, I thought it was OK to violate every moral code that I believed in. The details aren't important. All part of selfishness. If you want to have problems with the higher power thing, fine. Go out and drink and use some more. If your bottom is deep enough, then read the Big Book. Read about AA#3. Read the Chapter to the Agnostic. At this point, simply believing that YOU aren't the higher power and that something else MIGHT be is what I'd suggest as a start.

Funny, I just had a nice on-line conversation with a friend who just received her 3-month chip. Another person entered the conversation, I don't know if he is an alcoholic, nor can I attest to his insanity (nor my own, I drink too much to be a good judge of that), but he posed a question:

"I've read about AA and the GOD part, and, let's say I have a problem, but I'm an atheist, how do I get around that?"

She answered, "Ha! Well, I don't buy into the God stuff either, you know, it's whatever works for you."

Shallow, perhaps, but she does have her 3 month chip and she's proud of it, and therefore, I of her. He again replied:

"The problem is, I don't believe in God because I'm a rational human being and I can figure things out on my own, I mean, if I have a problem, I can get myself through it, you know?"

Not having been there myself (yet, but who knows, I'm not yet fifty), I had to reply:

"If you are an alcoholic, and you can figure out things on your own, you wouldn't be asking the question. If you don't have a God, then rent one. If you could've done it on your own, then you wouldn't be asking the question."

My point? I have no idea about God, but I do know that there are some things in life that are much bigger than our own capacity to measure our own sanity, much less restore it.

The constant battle of whether a greater power exists wears higher thinkers out. While I find the "let go and let God" route a bit of a cop-out, I am not so arrogant as to believe this infinite universe was created just for us. There is something greater than us. Just allowing for the fact restores a modicum of sanity.

I believe in God precisely because I am a rational person when I am not stark raving mad.

Despite the madness (or because of it), I do have a degree with honors in mathematics. One of my favorite books is Elliot Mendelson's INTRODUCTION TO MATHEMATICAL LOGIC, the text in Dr. Stacy Langton's USD math-logic course of the same name back around '94. The only other person insane enough to take that class with me was a physics/ philosophy double major, and with only two students, it was like private tutoring from a CIT graduate who knew what in blue blazes he was talking about... without ever referring to notes, all from memory.


Based on the formal symbolic logic (of consistent and complete first-order theories with equality) that avoids the semantic ambiguity of most atheistic arguments (especially the dogmatic atheist ones as part of an unprovable system of religious beliefs), I am now working on a unification theory that unites Jews, Christians and Muslims into one nation under God on a path to peace that even allows for atheists to come to God. The entire concept of this jelled after reading A. Garrett Lisi's articles on grand unification theories uniting standard model particle physics with gravity.




Ultimately, empirical science will prove the existence of God. Some of us will call it Judgment Day.

By the way, for people thinking this is just so much trash, look at the organizing ideals for originating the University of Southern California about what they have to say about this.

2 instances come to mind when the belief in a higher power, specifically God (of the Bible) fixed my insanity.

The first that comes to mind was a matter of learning to forgive. Forgive those that had hurt me and those that had hurt my family. (really good to learn since it was during my freshman semester at Loma and i was around all those that had hurt my family).

the second, and chronologically first, rescue from the higher power, was almost a decade ago. that was, put simply, when i came to believe in said higher power providing a path to salvation--Jesus' cruxifiction, burial and subsequent resurrection on the third day.

Interestingly enough, a coworker and i were discussing matters not relevant to work when the topic of faith came up. She stated that if she ever has children, she would raise them within a church. her reason being, those that she knows that consider themselves atheist appear lost. i concur. there's a certain weight lifted when one gives up power to a stronger individual, whether an actual person that you let take care of something; or a Supreme higher power, like God, that you confer and look to for guidance, an answer, or for relatioship

I won't waste space on the interwebs with how many times I've seen you puke on yer shoes, it's better than puking IN yer shoes because you thought they were the toilet (thanks HST).

On the subject of step 2, I speak as an avowed Agnostic when I say that there are plenty of people that have sobered up without god. This step refers to "a higher power" which can be found anywhere, just look around. I choose the ocean, mostly out of familiarity. If you don't think the ocean is a higher power than any human, I suggest you go for a swim while she's pissed off. Good luck.

To quote our mutual friend Jeannie from TFC, "Just don't have a doorknob as yer higher power, it'll turn on you".

@jdhowell: The chapter to the Agnostic angered me greatly. It is easily summed up as " Don't worry, you'll believe in god sooner or later." P'shaw!

RE #7:

Actually, nobody is guaranteed to believe in God before not being able to believe at all due to death.

Hello. I try to read everything you write. Yes, I am a fan. I have been in recovery more than 2 months and am actually at Step 2 of the 12 Recovery Steps. My life has cycled downward ever so slowly over these many years, until at 62, my life has become unmanageable! It doesn't really matter to my life (your life? anyone's life?) what others believe. What matters is what can give a person strength - in the midst of overwhelming weakness - to catch onto that railing of the stairs that lead to, self-preservation, societal appreciation, community involvement, familial intercourse, self respect and/or reasonable happiness....and....to begin a steady climb without falling back into the muck and mire of an imploding life brought on by soul-chilling trauma. Here's hoping that all who need a Power will find Him. I know that I have been suffering from multiple addictions and resulting hangups, not the least of which are gluttony, lying and hoarding. For the first time in years I have new energy to live a public life without regard to the condemnation of myself/others, without the broken record of the shame from my/other's past deeds but with hope that, before the End, I will know the sweet fellowship of the "me" that was intended by the Creator before the many unfortunate circumstances/liaisons and misguided (stupid?)decisions de-railed my life. If I can avoid relapse and be restored to true satiated sobriety, then, another name for God will be Sanity, Love, Peace.

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