MANY notes and many instruments go to make a symphony. Life is like that too.
I do not mean the vast discord of a drunken existence, nor the confusion of intermittent tippling between benders. I mean real life; the experience that commences with active participation in AA. Many instruments and much practice are needed for the symphony which is this great new adventure of living. And it is new for me because, until the time that I came to AA and started to learn how to learn, my actions were the result of “self-will run riot,” as the Big Book calls it. I have proved repeatedly throughout my drinking years that self-will-run-riot does not produce a symphony; it produces a cacophony.
Now I cannot see the pattern in my present life. It is not necessary, perhaps not desirable, for me to see the pattern. I am not the composer so that is not my part in it. My part is to become a part of the symphony by practicing the use of the instruments I am given, of which there are twelve. These are the Twelve Suggested Steps. They are only suggested because spontaneity and enthusiasm are necessary to growth in this new life. There is plenty of self-discipline needed, because there are no laws except spiritual laws.
I need to train my ears for omissions and sounds of disharmony which indicate that the spiritual law is not being fulfilled. These are negligence, dishonesty, self-centeredness, fear, resentment, self-pity. The spiritual law requires that with the help of God, as I understand Him, and of other alcoholics I make myself fit to give and to receive and to practice these principles in all my affairs.
With this help I have been shown how to carry out these profound exercises. Only I can practice them. Principles are things which I used to regard as priggish theory. Now I know them for what they are: Basic truth, moral standards, reasoning. These things I did not know in the life before AA.
Through AA I am learning little by little, by error and by enlightenment, by experiences both gay and sad, by the thoughtful discussion of group meetings and the continual surfacing of the group conscience, how to apply these three things to my life. By this I mean my small, busy, daily hour-to-hour life with its myriad variations of mood and circumstance, its speed which makes deliberate forethought often impossible and a sincere desire to do what is best indispensable.
My life’s task now is not a task at all but rather a gift so great it is beyond my present comprehension, for I was not long ago born anew and I am in many ways infantile and often clumsy about living. My ears are not well attuned to the composer’s desire. Yet more and more often I can hear the mistakes I make, and when my fellow-learners and I discuss the methods of our practicing we can laugh at our faults out of a heart mysteriously light. We are encouraged by the progress of our discoveries.
The instruments are priceless, but they are no use in that dusty corner. I must review them with wonder, practice them with joy, and rely on the composer with serenity.