We are all to some degree captive to the institutions and systems upon which we rely for the meeting of our basic needs.
For example, we often must sacrifice some piece of our integrity to keep a job, to procure needed goods or services, or to
stay out of prison for, say, war tax resistance. The problem is that every time we make one of these sacrifices of integrity
without adequately acknowledging and mourning what we are doing, we are further dehumanized. We have all been molded and
shaped to some degree by the systems in which we live and by the worldview that underlies them, which includes individualism,
white supremacy, the idealization of self-sufficiency, dubious ideas about how to achieve security, status, and esteem,
and so on. That is not to say that we have succumbed completely. In fact, quite the opposite is true. We have probably all
resisted as much as we can. Still, prolonged exposure to this culture has hurt us and diminished our humanity. We want it
back. In this ongoing experimental 12-step program, we will focus on recovery from this process. In our groups so far, we
often talk about our addictions to * economic, physical, and social security
* competition and measuring ourselves against
* praise and approval
* smallness or timidity in the face of injustice or entitlement
* staying busy
* control of people, places, and things
* keeping relationships shallow and safe
* having too much or too little money
* worrying about the future
* assorted substances and material stuff,
or the compulsive renunciation thereof
Members of all other 12-step programs are welcome, as well as those who have
never attended a 12-step meeting before. These meetings are an auxilliary to but not a substitute for programs in your primary
addiction area. We encourage members to attend other 12-step meetings as appropriate.
Together we will seek the
guidance of a Higher Power of our own individual understanding and support each other in trying out new ways of living.
"For to survive in this dragon we
call America, we have had to learn this first and most vital lesson—that we were never meant to survive. Not as human
--Audre Lorde, in "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action"
words quoted above were spoken to an audience of mostly women, black and white, but they apply, actually, to all innately
compassionate, tender-hearted, sensitive human beings—in other words, to all of us. None
of us were meant to survive as human beings.
What? What does it mean to say that we were never meant to survive as
human beings? I can’t say for sure what Lorde intended, but for me, these words suggest that the price of becoming
good citizens of this superpower called the United States is some piece of our humanity. In order to ensure our cooperation
in wealth-and-power-generating processes that subjugate and injure both people and planet, American institutions systematically
teach us to toughen up, to deny our feelings, to disconnect from our bodies, to “mind our own business,” and
to limit our compassion to those deemed worthy of it, often those who look and live as we do. We have been taught that,
as much as we might hate it, we have to “look out for #1,” as Rabbi Michael Lerner has put it, and that we have
to compete with each other for resources and status, strive for perfection, stay in control, and seek comfort and happiness
in accumulating stuff.
Please understand that we're not saying all of us have succumbed entirely to this training.
In fact, we believe that we have all resisted as best we can (thank God), but that the pressure to comply is intense, that
the process starts so early in our lives that these ways of being we were taught are now second nature such that they are
even now limiting our capacity for full aliveness.
Seminary of the Street is committed to fostering our recovery from
this socialization process and cultivating the development of resilience that will enable us to resist acting according
to our conditioning and to instead choose vulnerability, generosity, and ways of being that contribute to the flourishing
of all life.
We also believe that our own recovery will not be complete until we participate in the healing of the
addictive society that made us sick. (For more about the addictive process from which U.S. culture suffers, see Anne Wilson
Schaef's WHEN SOCIETY BECOMES AN ADDICT.) For that reason, our twelfth step
is a little broader than the one proposed by Alcoholics Anonymous and related programs. Ours reads "Having had a spiritual
awakening as the result of these Steps, we practice these principles in all our affairs, trying to carry this message to
those who still suffer and to contribute our efforts to projects that embody an alternative to the addictive processes of
the dominant culture."