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Thursday, September 13, 2012

From the Wayside Chapel by Graham Long

Dear Inner Circle,

Does it worry you that mental illness appears to be so prevalent in our day? 
Are you surprised to find that many of your friends and work colleagues 
 have been diagnosed and are medicated for some mental condition? Does 
 it cause you concern that most deviant behaviour is explained by some mental condition?
 There is no doubt that there are angels in our midst who see our culture straining and 
spend their time lobbying for Governments to increase spending on psychological 
support and psychiatric services; they become caseworkers and helpers in some form 
 and they give their all to support the maximum number of people through hard times.
 I love such people but I wonder when we will ever ask larger, higher level questions 
about the cultural drifts at work amongst us. I'm all for asking "R U OK?" and I think 
it's time to ask the same question collectively, of our whole culture.
This generation is paying a high price for the privatisation of the self. The priority 
of the self on the one hand is the loss of community on the other. The power of
 one has become our bedrock. We stress the achievement of success for our
 young by placing them in competition with everyone else. It's a lonely 
road to a lonely destination. A primary school teacher told me recently that well
 over half of her class was medicated for psychological issues. I'm wondering
 if we'll wait till 100% of our babies are medicated before we ask if there
 is not something fundamentally misdirected about the way we live. The one
 thing that most people who visit Wayside have in common is a deep knowing
 that they are on their own. You don't have to be homeless to live with a sense
 that no matter what it is that you're going through, that you're travelling alone. 
Most of our cultural responses to human need actually maintain the underlying
 disconnection of the self. I'm sure we don't think about this much, but our
 answer usually involves helping people to cope better, to function more 
adequately, to feel better, in the lonely journey to the abyss. Perhaps my time
 has not come but it's on the way, when we will see that to be more comfortable,
 more functional, or feeling better is an endless and insanely expensive journey.
 One day we will see that we need to call people out of their lonely spot and into
 the difficult but life giving task of belonging; to community. 
Given our obsession with the power of one, it's hardly surprising that so many 
individuals find comfort only in injecting or ingesting substances into the body. 
We are victims of a philosophy that life and happiness is an "inner" matter. 
It's not so much what you do but how you feel that matters. This is an anti human 
stance and it is little wonder that it generates all manner of mental illnesses. 
This generation is paying a high price but God help the next generation. 
A thirteen year old girl said to me recently, "Just because you sleep with a
 lot of boys, it doesn't mean that you're a sl*t." This dear baby was trying to 
tell me that it didn't matter what she did with her body as long as her inner 
 attitude was right. If she could have expressed her thoughts, she would
 have said, "Values are only inner things, projected outwards. There are no values really,
 just your idea and my idea."
The fabulous string quartet, Enigma, came to Wayside again this week. 
What a breathtaking gift was made to our people. These four fine musicians
 played their hearts out in our cafe for about an hour. Some of us (me included) 
were paralysed by the generosity with which this gift was given. 
Some sat close and stopped talking! There was one fellow for whom talking 
carries no meaning in the normal human sense. I think his talk is a kind of
 sonar system whose echo in the room somehow comforts him that others are present. 
I saw him sit in silence. To witness such a miracle caused me to fall in love
with these dear bearers of heavenly music. Some people carried on talking as 
usual. One fellow insisted on telling me how he went to a concert in the 1960s
 with his family and how he heard Tchaikovsky played and what a clever fellow 
he must have been to write such complex music and how his father didn't enjoy
 it etc etc etc. He was only six feet away from this priceless gift offered to him
 in this present moment and he couldn't see it and he didn't hear it. I guess in 
his own annoying way, he's a bit of an angel too.
Spring has brought an abundance of life and colour to our rooftop garden and
 it's a sight that has to be seen. As part of Crave Sydney, our wonderful 
 ambassador Indira Naidoo is hosting an urban food safari around Potts Point 
on Sunday, October 21. You'll get to visit Indira's edible balcony and 
The Wayside Chapel’s rooftop garden. Profits from the tour will go back to Wayside.
 Click here for more details. 
Thanks for taking time to read about life here in Kings Cross and thanks 
for being part of our inner circle.
Rev Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Kings Cross
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