Dear Inner Circle,
Yesterday a woman sat in front of me and poured her heart out. It was one of the most difficult and agonising conversations I’ve ever had in my life. It took her a while to tell her story and she was at pains to soberly relate the worst without over or understating the case. Time stood still as together we paused to gaze at the unthinkable. After a long pause and when it seemed like the worst had been said, she said, “So what’s the Graham Long great wisdom in response to this?” “Oh” I said, “Did you get the impression that I aimed to be useful? My aim is to be gloriously useless!” I think it is a mistake to want to “resolve” things. Often to “resolve” something, a massive exercise in forgetting is required. Some of the most unwell people I’ve met have resolved their psychological conflicts quite well but they have done so by shutting down history and shutting down a part of themselves. It’s better to enable the inner conflict so that a way is found for the various parts of the self to all engage in life, without obliterating anyone or anything. What is true for the psyche is true for communities. We don’t need to “resolve” the tensions between Muslim and Christian; atheist and religious; sick and well. We just need to find a way of enabling a conversation between both. A healthy community is not one free of conflict. Stability is a form of death. Homogeneity only ensures that communities will fight over lesser issues rather than important issues. Beware of ‘oneness’; beware of ‘unity’; it’s a trap! All real living is meeting.
A nearby church held a concert to raise funds for Wayside last Sunday. How could I not go? On the program I noticed 17 acts and every act did multiple items. In addition to the printed program, some neighbour had written a novel and they decided he would read a portion of it. A lady who was to play the flute was on the program for six songs. I saw her on the way in and she looked elderly and I’m sure she had emphysema. There was a rock band made up of primary school children. They looked too young to have learned all their riffs but they certainly had all the amplifiers. There was another primary school string ensemble. We had ballerinas, traditional Scottish dances, community choirs and sopranos. There was a Korean fan dance. That didn’t turn out as expected. All in all it was nearly a three-hour session. Soon into the program I caught myself smiling. The longer the program ran, the broader my smile. Communities just don’t make their own entertainment anymore and I knew I was witnessing something of a cultural fossil. The audience really caught me by surprise. There must have been nearly 100 people present and in response to every act, there was an audible, “wow” or “oooo” of appreciation. Every act and every item received applause, warm and sustained applause. I realised in the end that I was laughing at myself. Our mission at Wayside is about “creating community with no ‘us and them’”. I walked into this place resentful and thinking I was too important to spend three hours at such an event. As it turned out, they raised $1,500 and the items were of a surprisingly high standard. Right before my eyes, these people were showing me how to create a community with no us and them. Eight-year-olds and 80-year-olds all made a contribution and all were equally loved for the gift they’d made. Isn’t it funny that as I was humbled by this situation, the more I laughed at myself, surprised by joy and ushered into life.
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