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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Acceptance: An Old Take On a New Perspective

(A)cceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation - some fact of my life - unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes."

[Alcoholics Anonymous, page 417.]
Bill W. once commented that the only thing original in A.A. was the ability of one alcoholic to relate to another alcoholic at depth, and that all the rest had been borrowed from other sources. Not a surprising comment when one considers the universality of true religious or spiritual insights and teachings.

On "acceptance" we have the oft-quoted passage, above, from the story "Acceptance Was The Answer" in the back of the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous. Below, is a similar passage on the need for acceptance of people, places, things and situations as they manifest in our lives, this time from Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor more famous for his Meditations than for his then-renowned victories over the Germanic tribes.
"If you are distressed by anything external," writes Aurelius, "the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. If the cause of your trouble lies in your own character, set about reforming your principles; who is there to hinder you? If it is the failure to take some apparently sound course of action that is affecting you, then why not take it instead of fretting? 'Because there is an insuperable obstacle in the way.' In that case, do not worry; the responsibility for inaction is not yours. 'But life is not worth living with this thing undone.' Why then, bid life a good-humoured farewell; accepting the frustration peacefully, and dying like any other man whose actions have not been inhibited."
[Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations," VIII:47.]
Of course, Marcus Aurelius, was a philosophic stoic, a mindset that is increasingly uncommon in a culture that tells us we can do anything, achieve anything, be anything we want if we just apply enough power and have enough fortitude to prevail. But "lack of power," remember, "was our dilemma." Fortunately for him (and for us), this 'philosopher-king' recognized that all power comes from a higher Power - i.e., the divinity within himself.
"Take me and cast me where you will," he writes, "I shall still be possessor of the divinity within me, serene and content so long as it can feel and act as becomes its constitution. Is the matter of such moment that my soul should be affected by it, and changed for the worse, to become a cowering craven thing, suppliant and spiritless? Could anything at all be of such consequence as that?"
[Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations," VIII:45]
Wise words from a wise sage. Further wise words, with which I will close this posting, concern Aurelius' take on that "Great Reality" which each of us, knowingly or unknowingly, have "deep down within us;" the higher Power which, in this passage, Aurelius calls his "master-reason."
"The master-reason is never the victim of any self-disturbance; it never, for example; excites passions within itself. If another can inspire it with terror or pain, let him do so; but by itself it never permits its own assumptions to mislead it into such moods. By all means let the body take thought for itself to avoid hurt, if it can; and if it be hurt let it say so. But the soul, which alone can know fear or pain, and on whose judgement their existence depends, takes no harm; you cannot force the verdict from it. The master-reason is self-sufficient, knowing no needs except those it creates for itself, and by the same token can experience no disturbances or obstructions unless they be of its own making."
[Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations," VII:16.]
"When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity," Aurelius advises, "lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery over it."

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