Announcement: Welcome

This Website will be devoted to essays and insights related to diversity, addiction/recovery, psychological growth issues, global perspectives, the disenfranchised,  aesthetics, and cultural values. The core value streaming throughout the essays I write will be about returning to our innocence, which sometimes requires a trauma, a jolt, an invasion of the “other,” or a paradigm shift.

Many of my comments will sometimes reflect a more radically progressive approach to an idea. At other times, I may very well see some healthy alternatives in a more reactionary, conservative approach. There will be few areas, if any, that I hold sacred, taboo territory.  In that sense, everything will be up for grabs.

I am also interested in international film narratives, stories whose voices are too often left out of the more powerful voices of the international film industry. They have much to teach us about aesthetics, cultural values, and morality.

For those wishing to participate, enjoy the ride!

John T. Marohn

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If You’re New in a Twelve-Step Program

Feelings of Worthlessness

I’ve been in a 12-step recovery program for many, many years. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people describe themselves, in one way or another, as a “piece of shit.”

Much of this self-degradation comes from the guilt we feel over our behavior when we were actively using: infidelity, disappearances, credit card debt, emotional/verbal/physical abuse, stealing, or, one of my favorites—emotional withdrawal.

Recovery, for many of us, involves taking responsibility for those actions and behaviors. Over time, through meetings, doing the steps, and being emotionally transparent, we learn a better way of living.

We stop having secret lives. We learn to be honest. We start owning up to our faults. And some of us learn to be more humble, especially if we hid behind our arrogance in order to protect ourselves during our drinking days (As someone in the rooms so poignantly said about himself, “I tried to be one step ahead of everybody else so I wouldn’t be hurt).

But what about those of us in the recovery rooms who have a difficult time believing that we are worth anything? Continue reading

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Conservatism, Part I

Lawrence Welk, Fear of Blacks, Hell in a Hand Basket, Bedroom Sex

When I was growing up, every adult I knew seemed to be conservative. They watched Lawrence Welk. They dreamed of having a family like Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. They feared blacks. They played pinochle and drank lots of beer.

They all had dinner around five in the afternoon. They loved roast beef. They huddled around their televisions at night. They smoked cigarettes or cigars in the house.

The conservative adults I knew complained about the teenagers “going to hell in a hand basket” after watching Elvis gyrate. Some conservatives even read “Peyton Place” or saw the movie as one of their few radical ventures into the forbidden. Or they secretly sneaked off to a movie theater to watch Marilyn Monroe sleaze her way through “Niagara.”

And they always had sex in the quiet confines of their bedrooms. Back-seat-of-the-car sex was for the driving-age teenagers and young adults who had part-time jobs and could afford a Friday night out at the local drive-in. Continue reading

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Conservatism, Part II

The Past, Formal Ceremonies, Rituals

It is one of the beautiful peculiarities of writing, if you do it often enough, that content often unfolds in ways you had not expected.

As I was writing about conservatism, for example, I would discover the need conservatives have for “order”; that they need a chain of command; that a golden-age past looms very large in conservative thinking; that their obsession with “states rights” is an extension of their belief in “rugged individualism”; and that religious conservatives depend heavily on “sacred texts” for their values.

I am still discovering more about conservatives.

The fixation that many conservatives have for the past has many subtle and not-so-subtle shades to it. Sometimes the past is romanticized, even mythologized by those who want to hold on to a remembered, but somewhat fictionalized time, when life seemed simpler; when the good could clearly be distinguished from the bad; when “commandments” were meant to obeyed; when men were the moral centers of the world; when children actually obeyed their parents. Continue reading

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Religion, Miracles, the American Dream

Messengers, Followers, Teachers, Edifices, Divisions

If history is correct, humans have never been content to just live in the world. They have consistently yearned for some kind of meaning in their lives. Often that pursuit of meaning has expressed itself in the form of religion.

For those who have chosen to follow groups with any kind of religious or spiritual trademark, the pattern seems to be the same. When a religion begins, one person usually has an idea or believes he (historically, mostly male) has the right message, the truth, or has a special message, powers, insights, given to him from an exterior divinity.

In ancient times spiritual teachers were often wanderers or lived in small villages or towns. Small groups gathered to hear these teachers. Over time, followers began to expand beyond these villages. Official teachings were established based on the words purported to have been said by the founders or, in some traditions, messages or rules given or spoken to an official messenger (or inspired messengers) by an exterior divinity. ( Who becomes an official messenger after the first messengers die often depends on the rules of lineage)

It didn’t take long before religious organizations began to sprout up all over the world. Centuries-old edifices and sacred centers are still standing as testaments of humans’ need for spiritual roots.

Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, all seem to have followed this pattern. Continue reading

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Many Journeys, Many Paths

Diversity of Spiritual Journeys in AA

Some of us in twelve-step recovery programs have never belonged to a religious institution. Some once belonged but have left. Some are still emotionally connected to their religious heritages, even though they do not practice their religions.

There are a minority in recovery programs who have chosen Buddhism, a non-theistic sect. If they are practicing Buddhists they participate in daily rituals: chanting; silent, sitting meditation; or walking meditation.

Others in twelve-step programs have developed a very eclectic collage of practices, values, and beliefs they have gleaned from Pema Chödrön, Osho, Krishnamurti, Andrew Cohen, Deepak Chopra, Gurdjieff, among others

There is a vast number in recovery programs who remain attached to their Judeo-Christian heritages and continue to practice their faiths of choice.

Continue reading

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It Was There in the Past

It was there in the past
Like a static barn
With its aching wood
Rippling through
The seasons.

Forgotten,
Then a memory
Of cemetery walks
And tulips bending
In the spring sun.

Youth walking firmly
On anointed ground,
Not arrogance, exactly,
But pliant sails
Pulling things forgotten
Into the steady stream
Of what we once knew
To be true.

More than true.

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“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years of Pilgrimage,” a Review

 

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years of Pilgrimage
Haruki Murakami
Vintage International, 2015
314 pp

Magic Realism, Interiority, Bildungsroman Tradition

Haruki Murakami appears to have captured the imaginations of a lot of readers. And that’s saying a lot because he is not a writer who seems to be satisfied with just a story line.

In two other novels I have read, he clearly mixes his own brand of magic realism (fantasy, dream narratives, science fiction, fable) and a very realistic narrative (It would be an understatement to say that Murakami does not shy away from sex or death. He also manages to blend the murder mystery genre into some of his stories).

He is also a writer who has a strong interior sensibility and appears to be particularly drawn to millenials.

A third motif of Murakami’s fiction is a penchant for story lines that resemble the Bildungsroman tradition (stories about self-knowledge journeys, usually about younger protagonists moving through a variety of intense rites of passage). Continue reading

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The Controlling Caretaker

“No problem. How much do you need to borrow?”

This is not an atypical response of a caretaker. Someone asks the caretaker for money. The caretaker responds simply and to the point. And the response is positive. Caretakers are like that.

Suspend your disbelief for a few seconds, however, and listen to how another type of caretaker, the self-aware, over-the-top caretaker, might describe themselves: Continue reading

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Shifting Christian Narratives: Evil and the Good News

The I-Am-Not-Worthy and Only-by-the-Grace-of-God Schools

Although my father was Lutheran, I grew up as a Roman Catholic. My mother was Catholic and she insisted that my sister and I go to the local Catholic elementary school.

My sister went on to attend a Catholic High School. As a teenager, I went into the Franciscan seminary but left after my sophomore year, finishing my last two high school years at a Catholic high school and then going on to a Catholic university where I had every intention of becoming a Trappist monk after I graduated.

I lived through my Roman Catholic heritage but found myself moving towards a liberal and progressive Protestantism, until I eventually made the leap into a local Unitarian Universalist church as a non-theist.

My Roman Catholic heritage made me very aware of how strong the “I-am-not-worthy” and “only-by-the-grace-of-God” schools of theology dominated so much of Catholic teaching during the fifties. Continue reading

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