The Three Faces of Evil*
Not only was I selfish, self-centred and self-willed: I was also critically unique. Did I tell you the story about how MY LIVER was the most alcohol affected liver my doctor ever witnessed? I told millions that story.
My liver, my story, my life…the only exceptional thing is that they are MINE.
Another way to look at my hard luck stories, is that in every instance there was one peculiar common denominator. Me.
Even all the idiots on the road had one thing in common. They were around me when the alleged offences occurred. Remarkable, isn’t it?
They have a saying in AA that I love. (they have a lot!) ‘Your first birthday is about You, and then all the rest after that are about AA’. This is meant to remind us of humility, and that without the fellowship, these birthdays don’t happen. It’s also a gentle shove to motivate us to help others, have gratitude, and continue working the 12 Steps.
How It Works
We first remember that all living beings, which are all our mothers from previous births, have been immeasurably kind to me.
Even in this life, I have everything only in relation to the kindness of countless others.
For instance, the cereal that I ate this morning was planted, harvested, packaged, transported etcetera, by hundreds of people. Without their kindness, I would not be able to get through to the other four meals I’ll be blessed to eat today. How fortunate.
The 12 Steps’ book, and all the other literature is made available by the blessing of thousands of alcoholics that have come before me and enter my consciousness through the ongoing fellowship, also run by millions of volunteers. I have also been extremely fortunate to have been shown the way of the 12 Steps by several kind and knowledgeable people.
Secondly, we all have the same wish. All sentient beings wish to be happy and free from suffering.
Not many children tell their parents and teachers that when they grow up they want to be an alcoholic and go to lots of AA meetings.
When the triple fires of Craving, Hatred and Ignorance take their toll on us, we end up at the Last Chance Texaco. AA.
Some even say they tried ‘everything’ before coming to the fellowship.
And we can relate the recovery process to other aspects of our lives, and also refer the principles of AA to our non-alcoholic friends.
Wherever, whenever there is suffering, the concept of letting go, inventory, and amends, can work equally well.
That all sentient beings suffer, disproves my feeling of uniqueness. Sentience may even be defined as suffering.
With The Suffering of All as my motivation, I am cognisant of where I can help others. If there were no other rewards, I would at least get off my tribulations momentarily.
Frankly, if you are reading this article, chances are that your current ‘big issue’ can be classified as a First World Problem, as most of mine are.
Ironically, the Big Issue magazine is sold weekly by 'residentially challenged' and special needs persons on street corners as a means of livelihood. The Xmas edition and 2024 Calendar out now!
Three: We Are Many
The third idea in this meditation is that 'Others are many, and I am only one'.
My problems are mathematically, numerically, insignificant in the whole scheme of things.
Each day, thousands of cars are stolen, and only when MY car is stolen does it become a concern. Rightly so, but this mental twist will help me to keep the suffering that I encounter today in perspective.
Read also “Power, Love and Giving a Shit”
When I feel hunger pangs, for instance, I can sometimes remember how many billions of people that are starving today, or that the deforestation occurring is significantly removing habitat for countless living beings.
The Strange Mental Twist
We all suffer, basically, with these three things—Desire, Aversion, and Ignorance.
In the practising alcoholic, these are the things that keep us in misery.
- We fail to live life, on life's terms. We want more.
- We crave the release from suffering via our poison of choice.
- And we don’t know how this happened or how to stop it.
- crave things that will make them happy,
- have aversion to life’s nasties, and
- don’t know why this has to be this way and how to get release from the cycle of wanting, hating and confusion.
Not much different, hey?
It's called Samsara. In a lot of ways, addiction is just a critical/acute version of what others experience.
Having recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of body and mind, I am constantly in jeopardy of relapse if I revert to old patterns of thinking.
So, here is what AA and Buddha tell me to do. Continue to practise the principles in all my affairs and help others when they are ready and willing to accept help.
We can do this with daily meditation and meetings, attending to some sort of service work, and revising our progress regularly. The Lamrim cycle is 21 meditations. I have done this over 21 days and 21 weeks—maybe I could devote a whole year to one round for 21 years, if I thought I could live that long.
The AA program and meetings are a constant reminder that we all suffer, and that through helping others we are not only nourished, but get to forget about our own crap.
Who said ‘My shit don’t stink'?
My aim here is not to diminish the suffering that alcoholics and other addicts go through—it has been the greatest struggle of my life. But the parallels between the AA method of recovery and Buddha's teachings to attain freedom from Samsara are illuminating and fascinating.
*Joanne Woodward, in Three Faces of Eve, won an Academy in 1957 for playing three personalities of one woman, Eve White, Eve Black and Jane.