Inner Circle


Thursday, 22 October 2015

Dear Inner Circle,

Last night I spoke to a hall full of psychologists. Three funerals this week and a pile of speaking engagements put me in the mood where I was game enough to challenge the audience. I tried to explain that the increase in our capacity to experience came from the decrease in our capacity to enter into relation. The room was full of young, well-educated, well-travelled, well-heeled people who generally measured the value of their life as the sum of their experiences. But experience is just experience. Experience is located in the self. I can gain experience from anyone or anything. I can experience a person or an ocean but it has no interest in the matter. If a tree or an ocean or a person gives itself to me, somehow I am completed and the completion of the other. You can behold a tree and find a source of shade or see potential furniture or analyse it according to species and type or evaluate its usefulness by fruit yielded or such. In these cases, I experience the tree. I can, however, stand before the tree in wonder. The tree can arrest me in the awesomeness of what it is and I can know it as part of the living fabric of life which I share. The tree can give itself to me in such a way that I am met and changed by the meeting. I cannot say in what way I’ve been changed but I know that I’ve received something, a presence, not hitherto a part of my day. In such a moment of awe, I cannot say how I feel. Soon the moment will be past and I will be able to name my experience but by then the meeting is well over.

After I spoke a lot of psychologists gave me their cards. I think they may have been suggesting that I make an appointment. It was a fun night where I challenged our current orthodoxy and orthopraxy that constitutes both clients and psychologists as lonely. Human beings are hard wired as social beings; there is no such thing as a single human being; the minimum number in a single human unit is at least two. By treating people as individuals there is a real possibility that we cooperate in their ill health. Perhaps we can encounter fish out of water and offer them understanding and mechanisms for prolonging life on the beach while failing to recognise that the fish belongs in water. People can only flourish as people, in community. It’s possible to be comfortable, indeed we’ve become experts at offering every kind of luxury for fish out of water. But the comforts all amount to ways of soothing a psyche in distress because it is alone. Food, lack of food, no exercise, too much exercise, drugs, drink, pokies, things and things and things. These and the like though highly prized are just things. No things can help us flourish as people. Only people can help us flourish as people and people are no things. When we really know and love another, we know no thing. When we don’t know and don’t love, we know everything and everything is our object. When we really flourish, we flourish with others and at our best we discover ourselves to be necessary, significant and not central.

Yesterday I saw a young woman stop breathing four times as our beautiful staff worked to keep her alive. Gosh it’s hard to watch someone who is determined to dissipate their life unto death. It’s easy to blame ice but there is something deeper and sadder than anything that can be attributed to a substance. This young woman was a good looking person and a snappy dresser just 12 months ago. She’s lost nearly all her teeth and the shape of her face has changed. The face of the 30-year-old has been replaced by one that belongs to a tired 70-year-old. It makes me proud to stand with our staff who daily look into this face and not just remember but still see the beauty, completely unrecognised by the owner of the face. We will probably lose this person before Christmas but there won’t be a day when our team relax or accept it. Our John and Una in the Community Services Centre have a gentleness that is tough, persistent, disarming, deep, real and on tap. If we lose this person they’ll weep for her. No one will be interested in measuring those tears or would recognise them as any kind of outcome and yet nothing is more precious to witness.

Forgive me for boasting about this team that I love. I sat in the Café the other day when the crowd spilled out onto the front area and across the road. I had about an hour where I ate with a couple of people who talked my ears off. It gave me opportunity to watch two of our Community Workers in action. Alex and Kate both bring a sense of quiet and calm that almost has to be observed to be understood. Both are so quiet that they’d never claim anything for themselves and yet they are shining stars. I saw our remarkable workers quietly move to the side of every person present. They are masters at what they do. Person after person opened up to them as this gentle presence eased alongside. It was seamless yet professional, non-threatening yet purposeful. We are so lucky to have such angels among us.

Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

Rev Graham Long AM

CEO & Pastor

The Wayside Chapel

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Previous Inner Circles


22 October: Finding yourself in an awesome team

15 October: A silly question

8 October: Surprised by the joy

1 October: Being dead right

24 September: A day by the Wayside

17 September: It's a gold rush

10 September: The psychology of onions

3 September: Life comes from without

27 August: Surprised by the beautiful

20 August: Light shining through the cracks

13 August: A matter of balance

6 August: Recognising a gift

30 July: Your weakly note

23 July: 'A thing' from the Wayside

16 July: The future is calling

9 July: In love with some Dame

2 July: Better days ahead

25 June: Something funny, something beautiful

18 June: Seeing what's there

11 June: Amazing mates

4 June: There's a time and a place

28 May: The weight and the joy of being a neighbour

21 May: You're invited

14 May: Laughing, lying and loving

7 May: The awesome in the ordinary

30 April: Wayside light

23 April: Priceless gifts, freely given

16 April: Good news from the Wayside is great news

9 April: Awesome

2 April: Easter by the Wayside

26 March: Thankful for little things

19 March: A few minutes in the cross

12 March: Seeing what isn't there

5 March : A tour like no other

26 February: Tough love

19 February: Puffing or building

12 February: The two shall become two

5 February: Chest pains

29 January: Shear joy

22 January 2015: Fully alive

15 January 2015: Blessed interruptions

8 January 2015: A glimpse of glory


18 December 2014: Christmas hat in hand

11 December 2014: A little season of goodwill

4 December 2014: There was nothing silent about that night

27 November 2014: It's not about feeling better

20 November 2014: Gathering Moss

13 November 2014: Love the land, love the people

6 November 2014: The power of presence

30 October 2014: Paralysed by presence

23 October 2014: The joy of sight

16 October 2014: The best medicine

9 October 2014: Who would have guessed?

2 October 2014: There's no such thing as a terrorist

21 August: Saving souls

14 August: Squeaking out

7 August: A time for turning

31 July: You're okay

24 July: Happy tears

17 July: Let's aim higher

10 July: Gristle and good

3 July: The joy of not knowing

26 June: If not now, when? If not me, who?

12 June: Longing for riches

5 June: When you least expect it

22 May: Finding home

15 May: Flying

8 May: Tests, triumps and tissues

1 May: Skuse the French

24 April: Lifting the curtain

17 April: Collective love

10 April: Cardiac arrest

3 April: Awe struck

27 March: You're invited to something special

20 March: Rather a prohet than a loss

13 March: It's all happening at the wayside

6 March: Love makes all the difference

27 February: What goes around

20 February: The joy of being empty handed

13 February: Loving the growth spurts

6 February: Mighty glad to be back by the wayside

23 January: Some criminals have class

16 January: Wonderful surprises

9 January: Ready, set


19 December: Thanks for an awesome year

12 December: Mission and wishin'

5 December: The ups and downs and all is well

28 November: Kissed by the community

21 November: Our cup runneth over

14 November: A revelation from wayside

7 November: When excrement happens

31 October: I am therefore I think

24 October: We are surrounded by heroes

17 October: When you least suspect

26 September: A wayside wobbly

19 September: Knowing a gift

12 September: Advancing at the retreat

5 September: A little dose of good

29 August: Fighting with a feather

22 August: The boom is just beginning

15 August: True riches

8 August: Small is beautiful

1 August: Sensitive people miss all the best views

25 July: A whole lot going on at wayside

18 July: Kings Cross a place of courage

27 June: Holy ground

20 June: You cannot take what can only be given



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