John Knows How Frightening Things Can Get

toni stone
wonder works studio
401 buck hollow road
fairfax, vermont 05454                                                                  February 17, 1997


do not mistake acquirement of mere knowledge for power.
like food, these things must be digested and assimilated…
learning is not wisdom; knowledge is not necessarily vital energy.
one who has to cram…through a course, who has made themselves
or herself merely a receptacle for thoughts and ideas, is not educated;
they have not gained much. they are reservoirs, not fountains.
one retains, the other gives forth. unless knowledge is converted into wisdom into faculty, it will become stagnant…”
J.E. Dinger

John has his students, and without them he couldn’t feel useful. his students are called his friends. he runs a group for his friends. these friends have the same kind of mistakes and errors, he had. they used to drink, or drug, to veil life’s possibilities. now, they master their circumstances, accept challenges consciously, take risks and get some help along the way. leaving behind loneliness, despair and dysfunctional behaviors, they decided to tell the truth instead, how it was to be human, how frightening things can get, how scary it feels to say, “i’m sorry, i apologize, can you forgive me?” instead of pretending that no responsibility, or amends, were required.

life is shaped for John everyday by how he can help people get free of the grip of fright, alcohol, or drugs. his friends require honest straight talk to help them be free of the entanglements, that lies tie them up in. John’s life comes directly from the lives around him, working out. his friends call him when they would rather pick up a drink, or drug, they call him to step out and grow through risk into a new expression of who-they-can-become. John’s group uses him, their friend, like they used to use drugs and booze, to help them feel better. a phone call reorients them to remember, they are not alone.

calling John is better than drinking alcohol because there is no hangover the next morning. you do not have to buy more, he is free, available and constantly useful. his ongoing recovery comes from his willingness to have students, to teach what he learned. it stays fresh and lively to him that way. it is a process. it does not have an ending.

John is helpful because of what he has come to know. people want to be in his group to know him better, to be held accountable. he creates a space for them to do that near him, beside him and with him, not by telling what he knows but by living what he knows in the good company of others. the people he teaches enable others, in their circle too. possibility grows wider.

for some people the spray of a fountain is an insult, for others fountains are nice on postcards but they wouldn’t want to live near one. fountains are refreshing, invigorating and just-what-is-required to live true. fountains keep things clean. fountains lend sparkle.

while living a very ordinary life, John is an extraordinary man…the people in his groups are extraordinary too. life is enriched wherever John is…he reminds many of the George Bernard Shaw quote that says:

this is the true joy in life…
this being used for a purpose
recognized by yourself as a mighty one;
the being thoroughly worn-out before you
are thrown on the scrap heap;
instead of a feverish little clod
of ailments and grieving,
complaining that the world will not devote itself
to making you HAPPY.”

editor’s note: John would have turned 70 on Feb. 7. Happy Birthday John!