Thursday, 31 October 2013
Dear Inner Circle,
When Descartes got modernity off to a false start with, “I think therefore I am”, he couldn’t have been more wrong. Unfortunately the myth is still with us and most people believe that they create the cultural atmosphere with their attitudes and beliefs. The truth of the matter is that “I am therefore I think”. All my thoughts are formed by language which have come to me through the context of the community in which I was born and have lived. I am radically a social being. I was even conceived in a highly social situation. My body came to me as a gift from the love of others. I only speak and think because I heard words and began to use them to form the thoughts that such words were capable of forming. From these gifts, I gradually formed a concept of “me”. In sharp contrast to the popular beliefs of our time, it’s community first. It’s always, community first.
If we hear mostly bleak language, there is every chance that our thinking will be limited to bleak thoughts. If we move in circles where the talk is superficial, we’ll find our selves, our wants and our ambitions devoid of the kind of character that reaches for the highest. If we listen to a barrage of language that is constantly concerned with attaining things that we don’t currently have, there is every chance that we’ll form a dissatisfied, ungrateful and self-entitled sense of “me”. The staff at Wayside need to be on their guard, as do we all, because the language of damage is contagious. Language that has lost hope tends to shut down possibilities and actively disconnect people from one another. It is true that some forms of depression are communal. That the rates of depression are so high in our community offers no cause for judgement about individuals but it does say something about the linguistic atmosphere in which we are formed and move and breathe. Some forms of depression are no doubt formed by being in the wrong community, hearing the wrong language and watching the wrong television shows which are peppered with ads that continually tell us that we’d be happier if we bought someone’s stuff.This is what alarms me about the general political discourse of our day. Our fearful, mean treatment of asylum seekers is damaging our communal soul. That our current Immigration Minister has gone to so much trouble to make sure we refer to these asylum seekers not as people in trouble but as “illegals” is to wound our soul, leaving hardened scare tissue that makes us unresponsive to any suffering that isn’t our own. Our country is self harming and we are ushering young people into an atmosphere where they are forming their sense of who they are based on an atmosphere of our fear and our mean spirit.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that if we are awake, there is amazing power in language that opens up people to new questions. There is amazing power in language that can allow examination of problems that is free of judgement and labels that devalue anyone and thereby devalue us all. Every day at Wayside we confront language that is bleak and one dimensional and we do battle with the language of acceptance and community. Sometimes... sometimes it catches. When someone realises that there are others around them and for them and waiting to meet them without judgement, a transformation happens. Most people say, “Wow, how can I help? What can I do?”. This is the beginning of breathing new air. This is the beginning of transformation.
I’d like to give you a hot tip for the Melbourne Cup. Take the money you were going to put on a horse and give it to a charity that you love. At the end of the day you’ll have a tax effective receipt and your money will go on working to make the world a better place. Follow this advice and free yourself from the annual dose of fever that causes us to want what we didn’t earn and I promise, at the end of next Tuesday, you’ll be a winner.
Thanks for being part of this inner circle,
PS. We're hosting a public tour of The Wayside Chapel next week and we'd love you to come. The tour is on Wednesday, 6 November from 5.30pm to 6.30pm. If you have an interest in Wayside, come along to learn about our history, see our new building and find out about the unique approach we take to support all members of the community. Email Guy Cooper to book a spot or click here for more information.
Rev. Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Click here to listen to podcasts of past Inner Circle's, aired on ABC 702's 'Afternoons with James Valentine'
Be sure to follow Graham on Twitter if you have an account; @waysidepastor
Previous Inner Circles
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