Literature as a Tool

akron08-040This is me, in Akron, Ohio, in the house next door to Dr. Bob’s house.  The pictures are of pioneer AAs, and the books include many of the books they used to form the program or that greatly influenced the founders.

My attitude about this is skewed, and I have an agenda.  I am very much in favor of reading and writing, in all cases.  The place where I live and participate in AA can be, at times, insular, and I’ve heard admonishes against reading or supplying literature that is not “AA approved.”  Not often.  I don’t often hear people speak against it.  But sometimes.

I offer the picture and the idea that AA was founded upon literature that was not AA approved because there was no AA to approve anything.  Yet the way our civilazation is passed down and developes is through literature and the written word.  I believe that reading is good, and that bad literature won’t hurt people or jeopardize their sobriety.

I read the Big Book at meetings and from time to time on my own.  I had the Big Book on tape, and I really like that.  I need to get it on CD now that cars won’t play tapes anymore.  I read the Step Book at meetings and on my own.  I’m working my way through that whole book line by line.  I plan to read these for the rest of my life.  There’s no other literature I can say that about, including of course the Bible.

I rotate and switch among meditation books in my desk at work.  Right now I have As Bill Sees It there.  I read other books that have to do with AA, alcoholism and spirituality.  I just finished The Camel Knows the Way because it was given to me to read by someone in the program.  I’m currently reading The Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox.  That was given to me to read when I was new in the program, and I’m reading it again.  I also recently read Not-God, which is a history of AA.  I mostly liked that book.

When I was new I read Living Sober and Came to Believe. I recently reread Stools and Bottles and I’ve also liked The Little Red Book. I’ve never been harmed by a book and really I think even a bad book is good to read.

I’ve considered writing several posts and making Literature as a Tool a category here, and maybe I will.  For now I will transcribe one of my favorite poems for sobriety.  My undergraduate degree is in journalism, and my master’s is in secondary education, English.   I’ve read a lot, and I enjoy it, and this poem is just about too nerdy for me to share but I’m going to anyway.

LXII. Terence, this is stupid stuff
TERENCE, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can’t be much amiss, ’tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.
But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, ’tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.
Pretty friendship ’tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.’
Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:
The mischief is that ’twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.
Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
I’d face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
’Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul’s stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.
There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all the springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
—I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

A. E. Housman (1859–1936). A Shropshire Lad.  1896.

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