SUNDAY NIGHT TRANSLATION GROUP — April 1, 2018

Translation  is a 5-step system of syllogistic reasoning using words and their meanings and histories to transform the testimony of the senses and uncover the underlying timeless reality of Being/Consciousness.

Translators:  Hanz Bolen, Melissa Goodnight, Richard Branam, Mike Zonta.

Sense testimony:  Clinging to power can hinder the succession of valuable ideas.

Conclusions:

1)  Truth is infinite power/value, Self-possessed, Self-seizing, Self-succeeding with infinite conception/infinite perception.
2)  The singular infinite Consciousness Beingness, That I AM, is always successfully asserting absolute authoritative capacity, and continually expressing the virtuous validity of Principle, that transcends beyond measure.
3)  Truth is its’ own Artful Authoring Kingdom of essentially necessary splendorousness; exercising, finishing its’ ownership, Aristrocratically Autismical consciousness awareness, universally principled transactional absoluteness, conceptually perceiving its’ own formless validational formations into its’ emanational Kingdom of Causation.  OR:  Truth is Visionary Artful Authoring, Essentially necessary splendorousness; exercising, finishing its’ ownership, Aristrocratically Autismical Consciousness awareness; Universally indivisible absoluteness, Being the Emanational storehouse,
4)  The everpresent guiding value of All One Mind is powerful, universal, knowing what to do soundly, strongly always.  OR:  Wit is Valuable Everpresence.

The Sunday Night Translation Group meets at 7pm Pacific time via Skype. There is also a Sunday morning Translation group which meets at 7am Pacific time via GoToMeeting.com.  See Upcoming Events on the BB to join, or start a group of your own.

TRANSLATION ADVENTURE – 4/1/18

Translators: Ned Henry & Heather Williams

SENSE TESTIMONY: War is the perpetual solution

5th Step Conclusions:

  1. I and Others are One Whole Infinite Mind, spaceless, timeless, dimensionless ever present, available and accessible.
  2. Purposeful Principle is always unfolding freely without bias

“Does Recovery Kill Great Writing” by Leslie Jamison

I have a strong resonance with the whole idea of recovery, of being in recovery, due to the emotional abuse and stress I grew up with, as well as being shown how the daily use of alcohol lubricates life’s stresses.
–Michael Kelly

This letter, published 4-1-18 in The New York Times Magazine, is in response to an essay in the 3-18-18 issue:

The wisdom of Leslie Jamison’s essay is found in its rare glimpse into the heart of addiction recovery. She asks the question “Does recovery kill great writing?” At its core, the question for all recovering people is “Who am I without drugs and alcohol?” The pursuit of recovery is the pursuit of your true narrative, a self-awareness journey without which recovery is, at best, abstinence, which frequently cannot be maintained.

As our country faces a terrible opioid-addiction crisis, frequently absent from the discussion of the necessary emergency lifesaving medication is this question: “Then what?” The answer frequently emerges for recovering people through the process Jamison describes. It is a process of baring ourselves to our peers by telling our stories, listening to their stories and holding each other to the truth, the truth of who we are. These are 12-step principles, as Jamison describes her experience in “the rooms,” and the process is available for everyone.

There is a saying in 12-step culture that you can’t be too dumb to get sober but you can be too smart. It’s not true. Ms. Jamison helps make the heart of recovery available to even the cynical intellectual, the “legendary writer-drunk.”

Marvin Ventrell, executive director, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers

As I emerged from alcoholism, I had to face down a terrifying question.

The first time I felt it — the buzz — I was almost 13. I didn’t vomit or black out or even embarrass myself. I just loved it. I loved the crackle of Champagne, its hot pine needles down my throat. We were celebrating my brother’s college graduation, and I wore a long muslin dress that made me feel like a child, until I felt something else: initiated, aglow. The whole world stood accused: You never told me it felt this good.

The first time I drank in secret, I was 15. My mom was out of town. My friends and I spread a blanket across the living-room hardwood and drank whatever we could find in the fridge, the chardonnay wedged between the orange juice and the mayonnaise. We were giddy from the sense of trespass.

The first time I got high, I was smoking pot on a stranger’s couch, dampening the joint between fingers dripping with pool water. A friend of a friend had invited me to a swimming party. My hair smelled like chlorine, and my body quivered against my damp bikini. Strange little animals blossomed through my elbows and shoulders, where the parts of me bent and connected. I thought: What is this? And how can it keep being this? With a good feeling, it was always: More. Again. Forever.

The first time I drank with a boy, I let him put his hands under my shirt on the wooden balcony of a lifeguard station. Dark waves shushed the sand below our dangling feet. My first boyfriend: He liked to get high. He liked to get his cat high. We used to make out in his mother’s minivan. He came to a family meal at my house fully wired on speed. “So talkative!” said my grandma, deeply smitten. At Disneyland, he broke open a baggie of withered mushroom caps and started breathing fast and shallow in line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, sweating through his shirt, pawing at the orange rocks of the fake frontier.

I started drinking every day when I was in graduate school in Iowa City, where getting drunk daily didn’t seem dramatic and pronounced so much as encompassing and inevitable. There were so many ways and places to get drunk: the fiction-writers’ bar in a smoky double-wide trailer, with a stuffed fox head and a bunch of broken clocks; the poets’ bar down the street, with its anemic cheeseburgers and glowing Schlitz ad, a scrolling electric landscape with a gurgling stream and neon grassy banks, a flickering waterfall. I mashed the lime in my vodka tonic and glimpsed — in the sweet spot between two drinks and three, then three and four, then four and five — my life as something illuminated from the inside. There were parties at a place called the Farm House, out in the cornfields, where poets wrestled in a kiddie pool full of Jell-O, and everyone’s profile looked beautiful in the crackling light of a mattress bonfire. Winter took us below zero. There were endless potlucks where older writers brought braised meats and younger writers brought plastic tubs of hummus, and everyone brought whiskey, and everyone brought wine. Winter kept going; we kept drinking. Then it was spring. We kept drinking then too.

The first time I told the story of my drinking, I sat among other drinkers who no longer drank. Ours was a familiar scene: circled folding chairs, foam cups of coffee gone lukewarm, phone numbers exchanged. Before the meeting, I imagined what might happen after it was done: People would compliment my story or the way I’d told it, and I’d demur, Well, I’m a writer, shrugging, trying not to make too big a deal out of it. I practiced with notecards beforehand.

It was after I’d gone through the part about my abortion, and how much I’d been drinking pregnant; after the part about the night I don’t call date rape, and the etiquette of reconstructing blackouts — it was somewhere in the muddled territory of sobriety, getting to the repetitions of apology or the physical mechanics of prayer, that an old man in a wheelchair, sitting in the front row, started shouting: “This is boring!”

We all knew him, this old man. He was instrumental in setting up a gay recovery community in our town, back in the ’70s, and now he was in the care of his much-younger, soft-spoken partner, who changed the man’s diapers and wheeled him faithfully to meetings where he shouted obscenities. He was ill, losing the parts of his mind that filtered and restrained his speech; “Kiss me, wench!” he once said, as he held my hand for our closing prayer. But he often sounded like our collective id, saying all the things that were never said aloud in meetings: I don’t care. This is tedious. I’ve heard this before. He was nasty and sour, and he had also saved a lot of people’s lives. Now he was bored.

Other people at the meeting shifted uncomfortably in their seats. The woman sitting beside me touched my arm, a way of saying, Don’t stop. So I didn’t. I kept going — stuttering, eyes hot, throat swollen — but this man had managed to tap veins of primal insecurity: that my story wasn’t good enough, or that I’d failed to tell it right, that I’d somehow failed at my dysfunction, failed to make it bad or bold or interesting enough; that recovery had flatlined my story past narrative repair.

During the early days of my drinking, I was drawn to the legendary writer-drunks. I understood their drinking as proof of extreme interior weather. If you needed to drink that much, you had to hurt, and drinking and writing were two different responses to that same molten pain: You could numb it, or you could grant it a voice.

While I was studying at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I spent my nights at the writers’ bars on Market Street, and I spent my days reading the other writers who had gotten drunk in that town before I’d gotten drunk there: John Berryman, Raymond Carver, Denis Johnson. The myths of their drinking ran like subterranean rivers underneath all the drinking I was doing. Their drinking seemed like proof of their proximity to the terror and profundity of psychic darkness. As Patricia Highsmith argued, drinking allowed the artist to “see the truth, the simplicity and the primitive emotions once more.” Jack London wrote about the “imaginative” drunk for whom the “white light of alcohol” granted access to bleak truths about the human conditions — what he called “the pitiless, spectral syllogisms of the white logic.” Booze was illumination and consolation. It helped you see, and then it helped you survive the sight.

Denis Johnson’s short-story collection “Jesus’ Son” was our bible of beauty and damage, a hallucinated vision of how and where we lived. Half the book took place in Iowa City bars; its stories were full of farmhouse parties and hungover mornings. There was a dilapidated old house where people smoked pharmaceutical opium and said things like: “McInnes isn’t feeling too good today. I just shot him.” Johnson’s protagonist looked at the giant screen of a drive-in theater in the cornfields and saw a sacred vision: “The sky was torn away and the angels were descending out of a brilliant blue summer, their huge faces streaked with light and full of pity.” He had mistaken the ordinary Iowa around us for something sacred, and drugs and booze had helped him do it. One of Johnson’s poems described being “just a poor mortal human having stumbled onto/the glen where the failed gods are drinking.” That’s what it felt like to drink in Iowa. This sense of affinity had been passed down like a half-glorious, half-absurd inheritance.

But if mythic intoxication was an inheritance, who had the right to claim it? It seemed like a family tree composed almost entirely of men. Women rarely got to strike the same roguish silhouettes. “When a woman drinks it’s as if an animal were drinking, or a child,” Marguerite Duras wrote. A woman’s drinking is often understood less as the necessary antidote to her own staggering wisdom and more as self-indulgence or melodrama, hysteria, an unpardonable affliction.

This is only one of many double standards, of course. Some addicts are pitied, others are blamed. Race and class have everything to do with this abiding cognitive dissonance. But in Iowa, I didn’t see this context. I just wanted entry to the boys’ club. I wanted to understand my drinking as part of a story about the kind of creativity that had to happen past the boundaries of comfort. As Berryman himself put it in his poem “Dream Song 57”: “Something can (has) been said for sobriety/but very little.”

Sitting on a folding chair in a church basement, you always face the question of how to begin — how to assemble your private ledger of traumas into what people in meetings call a drunkalog. The early days of my drinking are the easiest ones to dress in costumes of nostalgia: drinking in smoky bars with other 22-year-olds who dreamed of becoming writers; running drunk through the peeling paint of the French Quarter, riding piggyback on my boyfriend, both of us fueled by shots of well bourbon; drinking lukewarm rum by candlelight during power outages in Nicaragua.

But the truer story of my drinking is really a story about tedium, about claustrophobia and repetition. At a certain point, it started to expose itself as something that wasn’t revelry, that wasn’t about connection but isolation, that wasn’t about dark wisdom or metaphysical angst — that wasn’t about anything, really, besides the urge to get drunk, by myself, with no one watching.

The night of my first meeting, when I was 26 and desperate, I drove across the river to an address near the hospital, crying all the way across the Burlington Street Bridge, my tears streaking the streetlamps into bright white rain. It was almost Halloween: cobwebs on porches, hanging ghosts made from stuffed sheets, jack-o’-lanterns with their crooked grins. Being drunk was like having a candle lit inside you. I already missed it.

The first two times I had stopped drinking, I didn’t go to meetings. It seemed like crossing an irrevocable threshold. Those times, some part of me suspected I would probably end up drinking again, and I didn’t want voices from meetings chiding me when I did. But this time I wanted to cross a line — to make it harder to go back. It was like taking out an insurance policy against the version of myself who — days from now, weeks from now, months from now — would miss the drinking so much she’d say: I want to try again.

I wasn’t quitting because I wanted to quit. I had woken up that morning, just like every other morning, wanting to drink more than I wanted to do anything else. Quitting seemed like the only way I would ever arrive at a life where drinking wasn’t the thing I wanted to do most when I woke up. When I imagined a meeting, I pictured grizzled men in a church basement talking about their D.T.s and their time in detox wards, gripping their foam cups with trembling hands. I pictured what I’d seen on television: slow claps and nodding heads, earnest mmm-hmms. But I didn’t know what else to try.

When I reached the gravel parking lot of the address I’d copied down, it was just a clapboard house, not a church. But the lights were on. For 10 minutes I sat in my car without killing the engine, heat blasting, wiping my snotty nose with the back of my wrist, jamming my fists into my eyes to make them stop crying. I was searching for a story I could tell myself that would take me back home: Maybe I’ll come back tomorrow, maybe I don’t have to be here, maybe I can do this on my own, maybe I don’t have to do it at all.

The meeting itself — once I willed myself out of the car, into the cold and through the lit doorway — was just a bunch of strangers gathered around a huge wooden table, past a kitchen tracked with footprints, old linoleum curling upward at the edges of the room. People smiled as if they were glad to see me, almost as if they’d been expecting me. A sheet cake on the table was frosted in muted sunset tones.

A man called Bug was celebrating an unthinkable amount of time without booze. He described staying in his apartment for 40 days straight — without leaving, without going anywhere, like Christ in the desert of a low-rent Iowa condo — and getting handles of vodka delivered to his door. I thought: I never got that bad. And then: Vodka delivery actually sounds pretty great. When Bug described how he’d gotten there — starting with the ritual of a vodka tonic with the 6 o’clock news, his whole day built around it — I thought, Yep. Imagining the rest of my life without that relief made me sick to my stomach.

But in that room, I felt a different relief, just an inkling: the eerie immediacy of hearing myself spoken out loud. These people didn’t know anything about me, but they knew one part of me — the part that thought about drinking all day, every day — better than anyone else. I tucked myself quietly in a corner. I wasn’t sure what to say aside from my name — which, as it turned out, was enough.

Once I got sober, I became more interested in the question of what little, as Berryman put it, could be said for sobriety. If addiction stories ran on the fuel of darkness — the hypnotic spiral of an ongoing, deepening crisis — then recovery often seemed like the narrative slack, the dull terrain of wellness, a tedious addendum to the riveting blaze. I wasn’t immune; I’d always been enthralled by stories of wreckage. But when I got sober, I wanted to know if stories about getting better could ever be as compelling as stories about falling apart. I needed to believe they could.

Over the years, I’d come to realize that many of my drunk icons had actually gotten sober eventually, or tried to, and I went looking for proof that recovery had not blunted or destroyed their creativity. It was like the desire the poet Eavan Boland confessed when she asked for poems with women who weren’t beautiful or young: “I want a poem/I can grow old in. I want a poem I can die in.” I wanted a story I could get sober in.

Many of the writers I’d come to idolize were famous for work that evoked the pulsing dysfunction of their addictions: the slurred voices and wild visions of Berryman’s “Dream Songs,” or the weary distances of Carver’s short stories, their tense conversations strewn with silences. The work that evoked sobriety — much less recovery — had often faded into obscurity, out of print or unpublished, lodged deep in file boxes in hushed university libraries.

At Berryman’s archives in Minneapolis, I found A.A. step-work covered with coffee stains and cigarette burns. The inventory he completed when he arrived at rehab in 1970, in a Minneapolis hospital called St. Mary’s, spelled out the wasteland his drinking had made of his life:

Wife left me after 11 yrs of marriage bec. of drinking. Despair, heavy drinking alone, jobless, penniless in N.Y. … Seduced students drunk. … My chairman told me I had called up a student drunk at midnight & threatened to kill her. … Drunk in Calcutta, wandered streets lost all night, unable to remember my address. … Wet bed drunk in London hotel, manager furious, had to pay for new mattress, $100. … Defecated uncontrollably in a University corridor, got home unnoticed. … My wife said St. Mary’s or else. Came here.

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