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A Conversion Experience in Two Songs

I look at the past 18 months of my life as two people. One person was on his way out and a new person was on his way in. I couldn’t see that happening for the most part, but I sure could feel the pull of change and the snags of moments I clung to.

The nights were very dark outside and darker on the inside for me. My heart was black; it’s gravity forcing any light into darkness. Black holes form out of dead stars. My heart was once a carrier of great light but all I saw was empty darkness.

Punctuating, or maybe describing, that time and that person was a song by Filter called “No Re-Entry.” It was a song that described exactly what I felt and my subconscious resistance to letting the world go. Somewhere deep inside I knew that the gravity of despair I felt was impermanent. The permanent solution of suicide wasn’t a fair treatment of the problem.

Once you leave there’s no re-entry.
You know that once you leave it’s more than an ending.
They’ll put the pages back in your bruised book.
They’ll put the pages back with rusty hooks.
You know that once you leave there’s no re-entry.

Eighteen months later I am the same body with a totally different spirit.Footprints Change is difficult to measure or sense when it is slow. There is no doubt that this kind of change that I went through was slow and deliberate. But it was a change I wanted and a change that I worked very hard to help happen and maintain. That doesn’t mean that people weren’t hurt along the way and that I didn’t make some mistakes. I’m not perfect and progress is often messy with some dirty detours.

In the “Big Book” of AA there is a little appendix explaining the “Spiritual Experience” which in 12 step programs is the key that unlocks the mystery of how to live a sober and healthy life. It’s most often not a “mountain top” experience where we see a vision of the holy.

Most of our experiences are what the psychologist William James calls the “educational variety” because they develop slowly over a period of time. Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference long before he is himself. He finally realizes that he has undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have been brought about by himself alone. What often takes place in a few months could seldom have been accomplished by years of self-discipline. With few exceptions our members find that they have tapped an unsuspected inner resource which they presently identify with their own conception of a Power greater than themselves.

Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more religious members call it “God-consciousness.”

The term conversion literally means “to turn around.” When we convert we change directions. We are not often aware of when that change occurs until we pause to look back. The famous “Footprints” poem is kind of like that. You think you are alone, but upon seeing things from a proper perspective, you were never alone but carried.

I knew I had changed when I recognized that the person who identified with a song about suicide now recognized more with a song about birth. The song “I Should Be Born” by Jets Overhead is about overcoming death with birth itself and made more sense with where I was. It resonated with my soul in a more tuned harmony. When I watch the video I can’t help but think of baptism where we die and get reborn.

You were drowning when you should have flown
I’ve been dying when I should be born
I should be born

Change is rarely easy and rarely desirable. We fear that what we are will destroy us and fear what we are going to become because we have no idea. In the middle of that is who and what we are right now.

In the midst of change I had no bearings on any of these things. All I could do was to keep working on it and following some simple steps to help it happen. Somewhere in that process I found synergy with God and became I new person. I’m still flawed and will still make mistakes. Just because I am a new person does nothing to save me from my own human problems.

Right now all I know is that I was dying and I was born.

About Andrew Tatusko

I do: faculty development at penn state | I study: higher education and religion | I dig: music | I'm politically: leftist | I'm not: the doc on celebrity rehab

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