Sunday, January 24, 2010

Body Parts

I had one of those moments Mary Karr talks about in the optometrist's office when the lens right clicks over and something comes into sharp focus.

I was listening to someone whose spiritual path I respect. He was talking about Haiti, but I couldn't help but think that what he was saying applied as well to alcoholism.

He was trying to answer the question "why." If there is a God, how could he let this happen. Or more generally, its the question as old as Job. Why do bad things happen to good people?

It's a question I've been hearing a lot lately, particularly in the blogosphere. Garnet wrestled with this question a few days ago and found comfort in a post by Mr. Sponsorpants. I have my own beliefs about this, but I've never known how to answer this question to someone else's satisfaction. I suppose that for each of us, the answer is different.

But listening to my friend, something clicked. He said that Haiti happened because we live on a living, dynamic, molten planet that has plates that are constantly in motion. But if the planet were not always changing and dynamic, we all would die, he said.

Did God cause the earthquake? No, he said. Earthquakes happen because this is the world we inhabit.

I can answer the question of "why?" he went on. But the more important question is "what are we going to do about it?"

In the case of disaster, whether its Haiti, Katrina or something else entirely, it's often said that we are all responsible to one another because we are all related. The people in Haiti are our brothers and sisters.

But my friend believes that this isn't quite right. We're not all related, he believes. We are all part of the same body. All of us. Some of us are eyes, some ears, some toenails. All of the parts work together, according to their purpose. They do not get together and decide the elbows are most important. That we should all be elbows.

If a piece of glass becomes imbedded in our foot, our body parts don't get together and vote it off the island. When we injure our foot, we care for it. Because a hurt foot can hobble our whole body.

White blood cells are dispatched. Nerves fire. Eyes guide fingers, which work together to pluck out the glass.

We don't help the people of Haiti because they are our brothers and sisters, but because they are part of us. We offer what gifts we have been given, according to our purpose. For some, that's time. For others, money. Still others can only pray.

So what does this have to do with alcoholism?

I used to spend a lot of time wondering why. Why the alcoholic drank. Why God allowed alcoholism to exist in the first place. Eventually I understood it's a moot question.

Alcoholism exists because that's the world we live in. I called that acceptance. The more important question is what to do about it.

I learned early in Al-Anon that I couldn't cure my daughter, no matter how much I wanted to. Nor should I try to vote her off the island. I couldn't do this anymore than I could remove a toe. Instead I had to learn to care for her in a way that would not cause additional harm. This I called detaching with love. I call it letting go and letting God.

But I could deploy what skills I have to aid the response to this disastrous disease.

Some of us are communicators. Some are healers. Some of us are strong. Like the backbone, they hold us up. We do what we can. We chair meetings, set up chairs, support each other.

We don't try to vote our alcoholics off the island. Instead, we love them. Not because they are our brothers and sisters, but because they are a part of us. And when they are hurting, our whole families, our whole society, suffers.


  1. Kathy,
    This was a great post. I will use this in my life.
    I also wanted to thank you for all your prayers and support to me this weekend. It meant alot.

  2. "If a piece of glass got embedded in our foot..."
    Absolutely we would make sure the foot was in an environment to heal. We wouldn't stand around and watch and count how long it was taking to heal we would just let it be and know it would eventually heal.

  3. I think we look at it wrong, sometimes, when we ask "why". We assume that God's agenda is the same as ours, or that being alive is better than being dead, that being safe in this world is better than not being safe.
    Maybe God doesn't look at it that way.
    Maybe, in the grand scheme ot things, it is not important whether someone is happy and healthy for a long life on this planet.
    Maybe there are things that are a lot more important that we have no clue about.
    Maybe our reactions to these "disasters" is more important than the actual outcome.

    We only see this earth and this life and so we have made it out to be the most important thing. If we pray for a child to live and the child dies, we become angry at God for letting that happen. If the child lives, we thank God because we think life is the most important thing there is.
    But, if God is really what most religions say He is, then this life is not the most important thing and whether people on this planet are happy or not is completely inconsequential.

    Its scary to think of it that way - it makes me feel less powerful in a way, but it also makes me feel less afraid.

    "This too shall pass"