At the beginning, I wasn’t sure if virtual meetings could work. Spirituality via Technology? It had never been done in AA.
Virtual AA meetings. Here we are. Well, actually, here I am and there you are. Instead of sitting side-by-side in a Church basement, we are sitting face-to-face from far away. The video transmission of my face rides on rapid data that translates into pulses of light and electricity streaming from my computer to yours. At least that’s what I read when I Googled, “How does the internet work?”
At the beginning, I wasn’t sure if virtual meetings could work. Spirituality via Technology? It had never been done in AA. What I came to discover, and I hope you have too, is they do. The program and community found a way. We couldn’t change what was happening in the world, but we had the wisdom to know we could change how meetings worked.
In the meetings we once knew, I especially treasured the ending in prayer combined with physical embrace. The encompassing circle of faces, bodies and hands being held made me feel one with every person in the meeting – almost as if there was a rapid transmission translated into pulses of light and electricity streaming from my hand to yours. Perhaps things haven’t changed much at all.
There is a setting on Zoom where the full screen always shows who is speaking and you see the rest of the attendees in little screens above. At the end of every meeting, people unmute themselves to say the Serenity Prayer together which allows for every person to flash briefly across the full screen.
When the prayer begins, the different faces that flicker before my eyes represent every facet of human life: young and old, women and men, Trans, Gender Variant, Black, Asian, LatinX, White, rapper, punk rocker, artist, lawyer, nurse, garbage man, CEO, grocery store worker, student, bicyclist, jogger, comedian on the weekends, surfer, wife, husband, brother, sister, daughter, ex-con, son, father, mother, cousin, neighbor, beginner, old timer, comeback, day counter, day one. Right before me, an entire world of sobriety fits neatly inside of a box. As it does, I hear the most beautiful music to my ears in the most imperfect fashion.
The Serenity Prayer is said in “unison” but is off-key, jumbled, ill-timed, and completely out of sync due to everyone’s different internet lag times. In this perceivably flawed rhythm of voices, I hear a perfect symphony. Each of these voices turn into instruments of God. The high voices sound off like trumpets. The low voices pound like a bass drum. Different quick voices dance together like piano keys and I hear a sharp, clean tap, tap, tap. A hopeful voice comes in like a slow and soulful trombone. A sad voice plays like a woody, wafting, violin. Someone who is happy sounds like the pull of a harp string. Someone who speaks quietly and shyly, becomes a soft note from a flute.
Behind it all, the conductor, a meeting chairperson, watches us in concert, no longer reaching for each other’s hands inside of a circle but reaching for each other’s eyes, ears and heart inside of a square. I travel to these meetings no longer on the New York Subway but instead on the cold keys of my keyboard riding the zips and zaps of technology. However, the warmth and true connection that penetrates through my screen during the end of every meeting brings me to a visceral feeling.
Some days when I see and hear the Symphony Orchestra of the Serenity Prayer on Zoom, I cry at the beauty of our perseverance. Other days, I smile as wide as the web itself.
The Serenity Prayer
God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.
The courage to change the things we can.
And the wisdom to know the difference.