My AA friend and I were out for a walk. We wanted to cross a broad and busy 6-lane road; we had to climb to a pedestrian bridge, elevated over the traffic.
To reach the bridge level, the designers had installed a spiral staircase.
For bikes and wheelchairs, they included a large spiral ramp wrapped around the stairs.
The slope of the enormous spirals was gentle. It took many rotations around the rings to reach the top; each rotation lifted the walker slightly.
We were walking up the ramp; my friend was quiet, so my mind wandered, and it turned to our AA Program. It occurred to me; this spiral ramp was a metaphor for spiritual growth. I decided to share this insight with my friend.
I began, “interesting … every time we walk around the upslope on the ramp, we are slightly higher than before; slowly and gently, we are rising.
“Right now, we are walking up the ramp, but we can walk down as well; it works both up and down. In either case, the progress is gradual.
“As we walk up, we are not aware of the change in altitude. But when we stop and look out across the railing, we can see how high we are; with each rotation around the spiral, we see the world from a different and higher vantage point.
“And there is a gravitational pull to walk down the ramp; it seems easier. Suppose we turn and begin walking down the spiritual spiral staircase; the progress down is gradual, like the progress up.”
My friend, used to my random digressions, remained silent and suffering.
I continued, “working the AA principles, that is like walking around this ramp. A rotation through the principles, applying them in all my affairs, akin to completing a circle on this spiral ramp. Each time around, it is the same concrete slope; each time through the principles, it is the same principles, just slightly higher.
“And there is no drama in stopping, and there is no drama in not paying attention to my spiritual life. But I am not gaining height.
“And like this ramp, the downslope seems easier; spiritual gravity pulls me downwards. And like the up, the down is incremental. Small things like skipping a morning prayer and meditation, screening calls from fellow AAs, and forgoing meetings. No big deal.
Unaware of the progress downwards, I continue around the ramp, descending with each spiral; when we look over the railing, we notice we are lower, losing height and spiritual growth.
“This ramp to the pedestrian bridge is a great reminder of the Program.”
My friend was silent, then said, “next time we are taking the stairs and you can lecture me on the Steps.”