Thursday, 3 July 2014
Dear Inner Circle,
There is no formula for life. There are no 'seven steps' or 'four laws' or any other formula that leads people to life. Life is not something that by any knowing on our part, is unlocked and possessed. Indeed life happens inversely to the act of possession. It isn’t reason that leads us to life. It isn’t reason that leads us to love. It isn’t reason that takes our breath away when we see a grandchild asleep. Reason is a wonderful faculty that delivers much when appropriately applied but delivers death when it reigns as king. A deep and wide education is something to be highly treasured but often dumb people can come to life and make the world a better place while smart people can, by the exercise of their faculties, make the world a bitter place. Life happens when people turn from all that makes them 'expert' toward the mystery and fullness that we call, life.
Last year I taught a six-week course called Gutter Philosophy. I thought a few people would turn up but we packed our hall with over 60 people each week. This year I’m running a four-week course called Is There Life Before Death? The course is about landing philosophy on the ground. I will pick up some of the big issues taught last year but I’ll pack them in themes rather than in the history of philosophy. The plan is to come for an hour of teaching and discussion followed by a communal meal, prepared by our new social enterprise team. It should be a good stretch followed by a good feed in the context of community. This will happen every Thursday night in the month of August. There will be only 50 places available so I suggest you book quickly. You can find out more and buy your ticket here.
This week I had lunch with a woman who I helped many years ago. She didn’t finish her primary school education. She’s not dumb but her life has been a nightmare of abuse at the hands of a sadistic father and then a string of sadistic men. One of her beatings would scare any of us for life and yet she’s endured countless physical, sexual and psychological violations. Somewhere along the line, she turned and was grabbed by life. Today her wisdom is earthy, uneducated and priceless. Her love for humanity is as wide as the ocean and there isn’t an ounce of judgement in her. She’s been happily married now for some years and she’s a grandma. She’s a beautiful grandma. “Where did you find the courage to leave your last abuser and turn toward a happier life?” “I dunno,” was her answer. “What was the thing that made you know that there was more to life than all that you knew?” “I dunno,” was her answer. “What was the moment that you fell in love with life?” She put her arm around one of her grandchildren and said, “Just now”. Our eyes met and stayed fixed. Once I was her thing (expert) and she was my thing (client) and today I am no thing for her and she is no thing for me. What a deep joy to be alive.
Last Friday we did a funeral for an Aboriginal woman who had been coming to Wayside for over 30 years. Our chapel and cafe area filled and spilled out of the building. Nearly everyone present was Aboriginal. The pride of what it means to be Aboriginal was so strong that it was impossible not to be uplifted and inspired. Something of the dignity of a people who animated this land for 40,000 or 60,000 years before my family of Irish drunks got here, dominated our space and was in the air that we all breathed. Many things that were said still ring loud in my heart at this moment. Father Steve Sinn (what a perfect name for a priest), who was parish priest at St Canice for many years, was able to join us and co-celebrate the funeral with me. What an honour for us and what a humble giant of a man is Steve! I emerged from the funeral a changed man. I can’t say in what way I’ve changed or what it is that I’ve received. I guess I received presence. What is weakness by any other measure, came to me as power that day. I am certain that Australia will not be okay; that we’ll never be grown up; that we’ll look to some other world power for security like we have always done until we know what I participated in on Friday. When we reconcile with the first peoples of this country and see ourselves as sharing with the ancient people of this ancient land, only then will we have the maturity to behave as a worthy citizen in this world.
With my love and thanks for being part of the inner circle,
Rev. Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Order your copy of Graham's book, Love Over Hate: Finding life by the wayside here.
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
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