Sunday, July 4, 2010
The Material World
Yesterday, I was at my favorite AA meeting, the one I go to nearly everyday at 5:30 PM. This locale nestled among pole barn buildings situated between auto body and car repair shops along a an outer-ring road. This meeting is primarily populated by what I call "the Harleys and Homeless" and this meeting is a great reminder to me of all my blessings in this life. The weekday meetings are topic/discussion sessions; and, for the first time since I started using this location as my "home group" I told what has been happening to me in my life and what I did in US District Court. At this meeting we were talking about "tolerance and acceptance" so I began my comment by describing the near-mutiny following my arrival at my job in February--among the "good young lawyers" who properly objected to having an unethical scoundrel like myself working even in my role limited by restrictions imposed by the OurState Supreme Court. I described the impulse I felt to flee, and the command of the partners who brought me aboard to stay--and, the fact that I did stay. I told them about the gratitude I feel to have this job and that as a result things improved if only marginally. I admitted that I accept and tolerate my employment situation with gratitude especially to those who put me to work, since acceptance and tolerance is really all about living life on life's terms. This is the only thing any of us can do in the material world, that, and pray.
I told the AA meeting/fellowship about my guilty plea to tax evasion. I think when I was talking about about my tax felony, you could have heard a pin drop in this normally noisy hall. I let them in on the likelihood that I will know my immediate legal future sometime in later September, After the meeting was over I was swamped by AAs expressing support and promising prayers, and giving me advice and encouragement--although, one guy said to me, "I hope you enjoyed that money when you had it!" When people say things like this, they are usually telling you about where their thinking is. I didn't "enjoy" money.
In fact, as I fall out of my material world, my spiritual world has been miraculous. The love, prayers, cards, calls, the promise of letters to my Judge and overall moral support has left me feeling as if I live in a state of grace. On Wednesday of last week, dear people, co-workers, lawyers, friends, family besieged me with prayers, prayer cards, blessed religious objects of all sorts, hugs and unselfish love. My emotions were on the surface all day, but my tears were in gratitude for the genuine love and support, the expressions of which still have not ended. In court, my shame and disgrace and regret is in saying goodbye to who I had once aspired to be--that lawyer that I had been; and, not at all over the material implications. On Thursday I had the great good fortune to have supper with two old friends: my Godfather, Tim and his child hood friend, Fenton, on the other side of OurTown. These wonderful men were very close and dear friends of mine since the early days when I got sober in the mid 1980s--they remained sober and Tim, the former owner of a legendary OurTown Irish Pub is celebrating his 25th anniversary this week, Fenton is not far behind.
I always said, my Godfather, Tim, is the richest man I know and yet if anyone was as bad a businessman as I am, Tim came close. Tim had the most successful saloon in OurTown but ended up owing some part of his soul to the IRS. Regardless he has a beautiful wife, Greta, an incredibly wonderful and talented family and a collection of friends that to this day represent to me all the riches money can't buy. Tim's friend, Fenton is a legendary local Catholic high school football star who went onto a successful career as a mechanical engineer. After Fenton got sober, and retired from his first job he went on to travel all over the world as a consultant to governments and business. These things occurred for Fenton because he stopped drinking and changed his entire life. Having supper with Tim and Fenton the day after becoming a tax felon, was wonderful and amazing--and, I'm still laughing at the stories they told me. Whenever I need to rehear the reminder not to take myself too seriously, I think of these two great friends. My only lament over the last ten days is the absence of my closest and dearest friends who chose the hottest week of the year to cruise the Caribbean, but maybe their absence created the space I needed to hear all of these other special friends and special messages.
Which is why I wanted my daughter to understand that obsessing over fantastic material things is such a waste of energy. I don't begrudge anyone their wonderful and beautiful objects. And I don't begrudge LeBron James his $70 million dollar summer house, but I'm concerned at the idea that my Seventeen year old thinks that those material objects represent some sort of success in life, on life's terms. LeBron James seems like a pretty centered guy, particularly when you consider the circumstances of his birth and upbringing; Tiger Woods seemed like a pretty centered guy, too. I feel no schadenfreude over Tiger's material or marital situation--the BSL said he's giving his soon to be ex-wife $700 million dollars one of my morning pals added that he's borrowing $100,000,000 to complete the deal. These fantastic amounts of money are not something I ever related to, even when I did have the professional capacity to throw around sums larger than the entire amount of money my parents earned in their lifetimes. So Mrs. Tiger Woods is going to take away Tiger's fortune? With his conduct what did Tiger take away from his family? What sexually transmitted diseases did Tiger expose wife to? What narrative will follow his children around to the end of their lives?
Money meant very little to me even when I had some of it. I always had way too much, and way too little--and, I never had a balanced or healthy understanding of money. I thought I did not have what I needed to be fully honest, unselfish, loving and pure in that area of my life. In fact money and material things are less than 1% of reality, just look around. I need to accept, and tolerate, breathe, love and trust God, I need to live life, on life's terms. There are no more valuable assets to me than my family and my friends, their faith and their support is more precious than all of the treasures that others temporarily possess in their lives. May we all live our lives well and fully.