How Anne Lamott Got Sober

Question: How did you get\r\nsober?

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Anne Lamott: How\r\ndid I get sober?  Well, I had—when\r\nmy dad died when I was 25, my younger brother had been 20, my brother \r\nSteve,\r\nand he worked in landscape architect, he was a laborer, and one of his \r\nbest\r\nfriends had a father who was sober, named Jack.  When\r\n our dad died, Steven moved in with this guy Jack and\r\nthere were all these sober people around his house all the time talking \r\nabout\r\nhow much they loved being sober and prayer and meditation and helping \r\nothers,\r\nand they always had these horrible cakes from Safeway that I happen to \r\nreally\r\nprefer to good bakery, because I mostly just like the icing, and they \r\nalways had\r\nthis swill, this terrible coffee. \r\nAnd I was always drinking too much of this swill late at night, \r\nwhereas\r\nif I drink coffee at night, I would sleep again several days later.  But, I got to be friends with this\r\ncharacter named Jack and he’d been a total lush like I am, and he said, \r\nyou\r\nknow, “We’re not drinking, one day at a time, and everything that we’d \r\never\r\ndreamt has happened for us.”  And I\r\nsaid, “Well, I’m very religious, very spiritual without your little \r\nSafeway\r\ncakes and swill." But like most drunks that had gotten sober, I got to \r\nthe point\r\nwhere I was deteriorating faster than I could lower my standards.  You know?  So, I was getting to a\r\n point where I was living in a way\r\nthat involved waking up sick and with a lot of shame and just kind of \r\nanimal\r\nconfusion.  And one day I called\r\nJack and said, “What do I do?”  And\r\nhe said, “Why don’t I come over and we’ll talk.”  So,\r\n that’s how I got sober and that’s how I stayed sober as\r\npeople said, “Why don’t I come over and we’ll talk, and drink our bad \r\ncoffee\r\nlike communion together.Our bad\r\ncoffee and our Safeway cakes.

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Question: What is the\r\nspiritual path you’ve taken since sobering up?

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Anne Lamott:\r\nWell, I became a Christian before I got sober. So I was a drunk, bulimic\r\nChristian. I wondered into the biracial church across the highway from \r\nwhere I\r\nlived when I was still drinking very heavily and using.  And\r\n the only reason I went in to this\r\nchurch, which happened to be Presbyterian, was because it was across the\r\n street\r\nfrom a flea market and I was there a lot of Sunday mornings when I was \r\nso hung\r\nover.  And when I’m hung over, I’m\r\ndrawn to greasy food and lots of it. \r\nAnd then I would hear this gospel singing or the songs of the \r\nCivil\r\nRights Movement.  When I grew up,\r\nmy parents were old lefties, I grew up on the Weavers and Pete Seeger \r\nand Joan\r\nBaez, and they would be singing a lot of the Civil Rights anthems, and \r\nso I’d\r\nwander in because I’d run out of good ideas, and no one at my church \r\nhassled\r\nme.  There were about 40 people and\r\nstill are only about 40 people. \r\nBut they didn’t try to get me to sign on the dotted line, or tell\r\n them\r\nwho shot the Holy Ghost, they just let me sit there and—they just let me\r\n sit\r\nthere.  And the air was\r\nnutritious.  Because there were\r\npeople who had put their money where their mouths were and they’d done \r\nthe work\r\nof social justice and they were true believers.

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And I lived in the Bay Area, and still do, in the \r\nyears of\r\nAllen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso and Gary Snyder, and Lawrence \r\nFerlinghetti at\r\nthis founding City Lights.  My\r\nfather loved the Beats and worked on a magazine that was very \r\navant-garde in\r\nthe Bay Area with Evan Connell and a couple of people that were just \r\nliterary\r\ngiants.  It was called Contact magazine, so I’d \r\nalways—and\r\nAllen Watts was around on his progressive Bay Area radio stations like \r\nKPFA. And so I grew up with the consciousness that Christianity was for \r\npeople who\r\nwere really stupid, but that there was something magical in the \r\nreligions of\r\nthe East and that Buddhism was okay, and Hindu was okay because—Hinduism\r\n was\r\nokay because Ginsberg was so wildly passionately, sensuously East in his\r\nunderstanding of things, and so joyously so.  And \r\nso I’ve always understood that meditation had to be part of—or\r\nwas part of the natural path and so I’ve always sort of dabbled in it.  And the main expression of my spirituality has been \r\nthis little church that I go to, and my sobriety.  The\r\n path of recovery and—I’m a terrible\r\nChristian and meditating is very hard for me, and I do it. \r\n I do it badly, like I do a lot of\r\nthings.  I believe in doing things\r\nbadly.  I believe in listening to\r\nthe—what calls you from your heart and your spirit and if you do it \r\nbadly, like\r\nlearning to dance, you do it badly or you’re going to kick yourself when\r\n you\r\ngrow old and you meant to do it.

Recorded April 6, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by Austin Allen
\r\n

A story of meditation, black coffee, and Safeway cakes.

China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession

The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.

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  • How love makes us feel can only be defined on an individual basis, but what it does to the body, specifically the brain, is now less abstract thanks to science.
  • One of the problems with early-stage attraction, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, is that it activates parts of the brain that are linked to drive, craving, obsession, and motivation, while other regions that deal with decision-making shut down.
  • Dr. Fisher, professor Ted Fischer, and psychiatrist Gail Saltz explain the different types of love, explore the neuroscience of love and attraction, and share tips for sustaining relationships that are healthy and mutually beneficial.

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
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There never was a male fertility crisis

A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.

Sex & Relationships
  • A new review of a famous study on declining sperm counts finds several flaws.
  • The old report makes unfounded assumptions, has faulty data, and tends toward panic.
  • The new report does not rule out that sperm counts are going down, only that this could be quite normal.
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