Service – Our Legacy and our Heritage
“To a man we of AA believe that our freedom to serve is truly the freedom by which we live – the freedom in which we have our being.”
Thus ends the 12 Concepts. It is a truly wonderful phrase “the freedom to serve”. For alcoholics, like us Service is not optional, it is essential to our sobriety and continued recovery.
Bill’s essays are full of wonderful and insightful guidance, he was a learned and erudite man but perhaps more importantly he understood alcoholics in a way only we the ex-drunks of this world can; so his guidance is based on experience as well as learning. This is why I believe we should fight to keep the first 18 sections of the Service Manual alive, that we should do everything in our power to ensure that every AA knows and understands the Traditions, Concepts and Warranties every bit as much as they do the service guidelines
The Why not just the How
“The 12 concepts for World Service to be described in this manual are an interpretation of AA’s World Service Structure. They reveal the evolution by which it has arrived in its present form, and they detail the experience and reasoning on which our operation stands today. These Concepts therefore aim to record the “why” of our service structure in such a fashion that the highly valuable experience of the past, and the lessons we have drawn from that experience, can never be forgotten or lost”.
It was one of the most valuable lessons I learnt when I joined AA that I no longer had to find about everything through my own experience, all the mistakes had already been made. The same is true of the fellowship as a whole. The founders have drawn upon their valuable learning experience to shape and form a fellowship that would suit people like us with a predisposition to drink ourselves to death. Of course, Bill did not just draw upon the experience of other drunks. He read and learnt from writers. In Concept V Bill talks about De Tocqueville, a man widely regarded amongst academics as producing pre-eminent work on the nature of democracy. De Tocqueville was the man the Americans invited to join them, to draw upon his experience of the French Revolution and advise them on how to establish their own burgeoning democracy. For de Tocqueville the enemies of democracy where not the aristocrats of his native France but the ‘tyranny of apathetic, self-seeking, angry majorities’. For de Tocqueville absolute power should never be achievable, a sentiment Bill notes with which we AAs can heartily agree!
Of course, we need the practical guidance of how to carry out our service positions. We need to understand the nuts and bolts of how AA works; the inverted triangle, the relationship between groups, intergroups, region and conference. We need to fully grasp the importance of PI and the role of the GSR, but in order to understand why we have these bodies we need to read Bill’s essays and absorb the beauty and wonder of the Concepts and Warranties.
As a suffering alcoholic, Bill understood and shared our thinking; he knew that we do not readily conform to any kind of regulation so he designed Traditions, Concepts and Warranties and the Conference Charter – anything but a rule book – specifically so that they would be palatable to the alcoholic. In order for future generations to of AAs to be prepared to adopt guidelines it is crucial that they understand the context. As the pamphlet Growing into Service says:-
“We must carry AA’s message otherwise we ourselves may fall into decay and those who have not be given the truth may die.”