The Motto posters - a theme highlighted by Valverde - perform, objectify, the discourse or ideology of the community in distinct manageable form. Like the prayers - rituals that are reproduced on a daily basis, words that can be uttered without necessarily thinking or believing: One motto (not represented in this collection) is "fake it till you make it". Begin with the wording, the external, that with which you do not have to identify in the form of being accountable for, but rather in the sense of surrender - the substantialization will follow eventually.
Can you identify AA philosophy in those motto posters?
(By the way - one extremely inspiring reference on the externality of prayer [although in an entirely different theoretical framework: Lacanian psychoanalysis and critical theory] is Slavoj Zizek's "The Interpassive Subject")
The point about the Big Book, likewise, is not that you're a full member only if you have read it all, and understood everything. Your surrender lies in your recognition of an esoteric wisdom which you do not master. Your self-understanding is external and potential; it lies with the community.
The community is precisely constituted with a dogmatic reference. This does not imply a fixed identification, but, rather, a never-ending exegesis. The texts have a street-level point of entry: anyone can understand this meaning. It is as "democratic" as any religion, accessible and left to the discretion of each person, even if no questions are raised. The newcomer equals the oldtimer in the fact that she understands something, as well as in the fact that she does not understand everything, since the wisdom is essentially beyond the comprehension of any alcoholic.
What does it do to the community - the AA world-wide as well as all the local communities - that the Book is fixed and once and for all sets the rules for the organization and its activities?
A Narcotics Anonymous member once told me in an interview:
can buy a Life in the Light, you can buy 10.000 tons of self-enhancement, or
"let's-", "new-age-let's-realize-ourselves"-books, and in
– I think in most of them there's a – again, going back to what's behind –
there's an egoistic or ego-centered relation to the world, and that is what the
NA is not. Actually, if you read
those principles, it's a humility towards the world, and that is what I really
love about this program, that it's a community, and it may be that it is more
likely a spiritual community than one of those old socialist communities or
something. But that humility is important. We can only do it if we do it
How does it make sense that it is a "spiritual" community? What does it matter?