If you set out to live a life of adventure you are bound to suffer some extreme highs and lows. Danger and unknown risks are the essence of what qualifies something as an adventure, and though exciting to watch on a movie screen, even the most common-place scenarios that the protagonists go through, for example, having someone fire a gun at you, could easily be the most upsetting experience of your life. Be careful what you wish for when you wish for adventure. Too much of it can leave you permanently jumpy and unstable.
Because I grew up idolizing comic book heroes, I was always unhappy with the dull routine of everyday life and the mundane tasks I was assigned to squander my powers on. I wanted to sprint over big mountains, not shop for groceries or fold laundry. It seemed I grew up at a time, and in a land, where no real freedom and fun were permissible. There were rules and laws governing nearly every behavior and square inch of soil. The landscape changed by region, but every city, and your options upon arriving there, were almost identical. If you didn’t play by the rules you risked imprisonment or homelessness, with clearly no one but yourself to blame.
I read about rich people and famous people who got to live the way they pleased, but most people that I knew worked hard and were constantly afraid of not having enough money to get by. Some people had enough money but no time. Others had enough time but not enough money. Most people had neither time nor money. If they got any time off at all, it was usually during holidays, when everyone else had the exact same time off and everything was expensive and a hassle to get to. The money they spent during those holidays, further indentured them to the company store.
Faced with those grim options, I couldn’t help taking some chances, and when I inevitably lost, which I did, time and time again, looked to the wisdom of the ages to validate my suffering. Hardship builds character. Possessions weigh you down. Humility is a virtue.
Lately the line had been crossed however, between humility and abject humiliation. Things had gone from adventurous, to too daunting to even be manageable. The stress of just being alive, not to mention attempting to still shoulder great expectations, had become unbearable.
Serenity means a state of being calm and untroubled. The only way I’d ever experienced serenity was in getting away from everything. There were some good times, happy escapes, magical moments, when life was a joy, but when things were bad, they were awful, the very darkest, the worst of all worlds. Day to day living, working through year-long contracts, was mostly an anxious biding away of the time. Now there was not even a chance of escape, no deadline or window of opportunity on the horizon. Quite simply, it was the most unacceptable situation I’d ever been in.
Apparently, it was time to learn something about acceptance. Hungry Ghosts Anonymous uses the same twelve step program that was developed by Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s as a spiritual solution to the age-old problem of addiction. Different branches of it cater to different addictions, so the literature they use may vary, but since the Holy Ghost Tribe is for those with alcohol and drug dependencies, they use the original Big Book and general meeting format, with a few appropriate word substitutions aimed at ghosts. This works perfectly for me since alcohol has always been my poison of choice.
At the beginning of every gathering, all the ghosts say the Serenity Prayer, asking for serenity to accept what they can’t change, courage to change what they can, and wisdom to know the difference. This is a famous prayer, one I’d seen in many places, most notably on the wall of my parents’ bedroom. My goal had always been the very opposite, however, to change the things I couldn’t accept. That one-man battle against everyone and everything had brought me very close to the same ignoble end as Che Guevara, years after his young revolutionary, beret-wearing, glory days, starving to death in the jungle, with a ragtag group of deluded idealists, outmanned and outgunned by the Bolivian army.
Up until now, I’d seen serenity as something that had to be won. Now I was being told that real serenity was found in surrender, by accepting life on life’s terms. You have to have been knocked down hard to see the sense in this. Having been annihilated beyond comprehension by the recent turn of events, I was more than willing to give it a try. I began waking up every morning and saying the serenity prayer before I opened up my eyes.
The next step, I figured, would be trying to integrate some form of meditation into my morning routine. Anytime I got into a cross-legged position, all the crows in the neighborhood would begin to caw at once. These were my mockers, rooting for me to fail. They needn’t have bothered. My thoughts were louder than anything.