Dear Inner Circle,
Human beings are hard wired as social. The minimum number in the fundamental
human unit is two. So, the word "I", which is the smallest word in the English
language, is also one of the most misleading and the one most in need of review.
The word "I" could only ever refer to half of something, at most.
Are you still reading? I'm going out of my way today to provoke some
serious thinking. What I want to say is simple yet counter-cultural.
In the West, we totally buy the myth of the "power of one".
This is a powerful and seductive myth. Most of our media, especially
our movies, presuppose that some hero will fight against the odds to
bring justice to the world. It makes for good entertainment but it's a
fairy tale. In reality, every success is a shared success and every
failure is a shared failure. We belong to one another and we sink or swim,
If you think that I'm saying that most of the enterprise that we know by
the term "psychology" is based on a fundamental misunderstanding
of human nature, you're clearly paying attention. Looking for loose
screws in individual heads is a fairly unfruitful exercise. It is an
activity that keeps a lot of people employed, but it is an activity
that is largely blind to the liberating power of belonging. I'm a voice
crying in the wilderness, proclaiming, "What ever happened to
normal variation in human nature?" When did everything become
part of some syndrome that required expert help and often, medication?
However, I seek to address an issue far deeper than the medicalisation
Deep in our history, assumptions have developed that find their way
into our foundational belief. In that body of belief by which we judge
all other belief is "the power of one" and with it, a commitment to loneliness.
Loneliness is the pandemic of our age. No matter if we survey the top,
the middle or the bottom of the social pile; isolation is consistently
the greatest need identified. It is the goal of much of the helping
profession to help people feel more comfortable in their isolation.
Not just the helping professions but endless religious experts and
gurus of all shapes and sizes seek to bring the kind of comfort that
comforts but leaves people still alone. The medical approach
requires pills mostly; the counsellors work with feelings; the religious talk
about experience but it is all variation on the same theme. It's all about the self.
The most urgent need I know of is for us to discover the power of community.
The power of presence is not a power within but the power of “with”. We need
to call people out of the familiar spot where they are the ultimate authority
on all things. The sense of entitlement that I see every day is a feature of
damage but it is not just with the poor. On my way home last night I saw
someone sit on their horn for minutes because the car in front refused to turn
left in a lane where left or straight were permitted. The entitled person on
the horn was in a Mercedes E class so I expect that they weren't homeless.
If only we could be called out of the righteous bubbles in which we live to
the wide open spaces of community. Imagine if every time we heard the word,
"I", we noted a word of connection; of meeting; of relation.
All of this in order for me to say that the recent announcement by the
Government, that it is going to screen all three year olds for mental illness,
sends a cold shudder up my spine. This is searching for lose screws in
individual heads on a grand scale. Who is going to do this work I wonder? GPs?
Psychologists? With what acknowledged scale will they measure the mental
health of a three year old? How many more kids will grow up on medication
as a result of this initiative? I promise you that a child that grows up in that
way learns just a few things; there is something wrong; the cause is in my head;
I am deficient in some way.
I don't often rant in my notes but I don't think I can use words more efficiently
Ooops! Our most important appeal of the year is our Winter Appeal which
is happening right now. I know there are tens of thousands of charities in
this State and that you are approached by many good causes. If you haven't
supported a charity this year, I'd love you to consider giving us a hand.
You can do that right here. In all my notes I never mention money except
once at Christmas and once at this time of year. I hope you forgive my cheek.
thank you so much for being part of this inner circle,
Rev Graham Long
The Wayside Chapel
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