sobriety Tag

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When Do We Acquire the Knowledge of Self?

So when it comes to the notion of authenticity, RZA is like “He is my guy.” 

 

RZA is a producer and also a hip-hop MC of a group called Wu-Tang from Long Island. I grew up listening to him.

 

And I remember being 13 years old smoking weed in my cousin’s bedroom, listening to an album called Liquid Swords. And it was like an alien had landed and delivered an album from another planet. 

 

We were like, “Who are these guys?” 

 

And it is because their hip-hop lineage–like where they got their sound from–actually was not other hip-hop artists. They got their sound from Kung Fu movies. So it is a mix of hip-hop, boom-bap drums from the East Coast, Kung Fu sounds, and the Soul samples. It was really amazing.

 

Anyway, I heard this interview with Rick Rubin and RZA, and, basically, Rick was like, “Man…” (kind of like me) “Hey man, you are like an alien, but you are making–you started making this kind of music at like fifteen years old. Like who are you? How did you create Wu-Tang?” 

 

And RZA goes…He has his phrase. I will never forget it. He says in the interview, “Rick, I had knowledge of myself at a very young age…like 11 years old.” 

 

And just the way that he said it…I am familiar with Wu-Tang, RZA, and hip-hop. The way he said, “I had knowledge of myself at a very young age.” For me, it was like a theory about how human beings develop in a way that I had never thought about it. 

 

So I give a lot of credit to RZA for this because I think about human development and psychological development. I actually know about stage development from Kohlberg and Piaget. I know about how humans grow, learn, and transform. I know the great thinkers on the subject. 

 

But for me, my favorite right now is RZA…because there is not a category in developmental psychology that says, “When do we get knowledge of self in the way that he is talking about?” 

 

Because he is implying that he knew who he was supposed to be and what he was supposed to be doing at 11 years old.

 

This idea is so crucial. I am raising kids and I have expectations about how they are behaving in the world but they are also individual and unique souls. One of the things I want to understand is: when does this kid have knowledge of self? 

 

Because at that point, I have to trust what they are doing. I mean, I do not know if RZA’s mom, when he was smoking weed and watching Kung Fu movies was like, “Well, he knows himself and he knows exactly what he was supposed to be doing. So let me let him do his thing.” 

 

The other thing that struck me when he said that…For me that experience happened much later. I got sober at 21 years old. But if you were to ask me in the way that RZA was implying–or at least my interpretation of what RZA was implying–when I had knowledge of self, I would probably say not until my 30s. 

 

It was very interesting. So it is interesting to think about that as a category of being and how it relates to a notion of authenticity. How can you be authentic without having knowledge of self? Without knowing who you are? 

 

And I do not mean that in some complete sense. I just mean that in some sense where you wake up and you kind of just know who you are and you know generally what you are supposed to be doing and how you are supposed to be. 

 

It is not some fancy academic concept, but I think it points to something so important and so real about the human journey and the human soul.

 

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Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

One of the things you will commonly hear with people that are working in the domain of spirituality or working on transforming and recovery is you might hear the term, “Everything happens for a reason.”

 

For me, working in a treatment setting, it is something I usually hear from somebody. And when I hear it, I actually think it is a good sign. 

 

The story will go something like this

 

Somebody comes in and there is almost always some difficulty that has happened. Some challenge that has happened that brought them into treatment–a DUI, an issue with a spouse, an issue at work. Something has coerced them to go. Okay. Okay. Okay. I need to get some help

 

It is very rare when somebody just comes in because they had a revelation. So I will be working with somebody in treatment and, you know, essentially they have a lot of wreckage in their life. Something has been devastated.[/vc_column_text]

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“I think that everything happened for a reason”

 

So they are depressed and they are having a difficult time. They do not want to be there and [wonder] what the hell happened to my life and all this stuff. Then you will see the mood start to shift and you might hear something after a couple of weeks when you are sitting in a group

 

I am facilitating a group and somebody will say, “You know, this has been really difficult. This has been one of the hardest things that I have ever had to go through…But now looking back at what happened and having found myself here, I think that everything happened for a reason.” 

 

So for me, that is where the phrase came from. I think when you have those kinds of phrases when they stick and they are passed down, it is because they are pointing to a certain kind of experience that people have.

 

That is not just people in recovery.  Anybody can have that kind of experience. [/vc_column_text]

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Revelation or spiritual awakening

 

The experience is: I am going through a difficult time, but somehow the way I am seeing it and understanding it has changed. 

 

I mean, from a spiritual point of view, we would call that a revelation or spiritual awakening. Suddenly, I look at my history and I see a consolidated cohesive story that I did not see before… And I look back and I go, “everything that has happened brought me to this moment”. 

 

It is all for a reason. So for me that phrase–that is the truth of it. The truth of it is that experience. The phrase itself is not completely true. Some people make the mistake of allowing that phrase to become an ideology, to become a philosophy that they live by.

 

But it is a limited philosophy. It is limited in a couple of areas. 

 

I will give an example, in my mind, you are sort of a fundamentalist spiritual or religious person if you have a young child, God forbid, that gets sick. Let us say terminally sick. Let us say a kid that has cancer and you are living by the philosophy everything happens for a reason. 

 

What reason is that? I mean, you could give some religious reason, God has a plan. I do not understand. Okay, that is great. But if you were that God, you probably would not plan that. I do not know if I jive with that completely in the way I understand religion and spirituality.

 

The other way that it does not work is all of the mundane and randomness of our reality. The garbage bag breaking. I got a toothache.

Is that happening for a reason? 

 

Yeah, I did not brush my teeth well, or I did not take care of this cavity but is it happening for a cosmic reason? Not one that I am interested in. 

 

One of the ways that I approach the spirituality period is being able to draw a line as to where I am applying a spiritual lens and where I am not. If I know somebody who has a sick child, I do not go to the hospital and say, “Hey, this is happening for a reason.” I keep my mouth shut and say, how can I support you? Right? 

 

So that term points to a very important, I would say, spiritual reality of: Wow, there is something here that has allowed me to be in this harmonic moment coming from a really difficult period. 

 

There is something very essential, important, and spiritual about the experience, but it is not a life philosophy.

 

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