Much of what looks like critical thinking is nothing more than a shift in fashion. We like to think ourselves wiser than previous generations but the evidence is not always conclusive. Maybe this generation is wiser in some respects but not all change indicates progress and not all progress indicates an increase in wisdom.

So much of what forms the foundations of Western society, comes to us from generations long since forgotten. Much of what forms our cultural bedrock has never been examined because it is indeed, the ground upon which all our judgement is exercised.

One of the most fundamental ideas passed to us through history is the idea that there is such thing as a single human being. Every part of our culture accepts that the basic human unit is the individual. Our education system teaches that individual effort will reward and bring advantages over those who are less able or less willing to learn. All of our law is based on the idea of the responsibility of the individual for their behavior. Our popular culture preaches the power of one at every opportunity. Most movies begin by revealing an injustice of some sort and then a story unfolds of how an individual saves the day, often with the assistance of that instrument most able to confirm this illusionary idea of the power of one; the gun. Even our attempts to heal social dysfunction mostly leave people more isolated in the process. We give people pills, pamphlets and programs and we form individuals as patients, clients and cases but “One” is lonely; it isn’t human.

To see the illusion and rethink the situation will cause us to look afresh at every aspect of our human arrangements. What if the fundamental number in the basic human unit is two? What if we are radically, hard wired as social beings? If the fundamental human unit is two, there is no human presence until there is community. The word, “I” could only ever at most describe, half of something.

An individual is only half human. The individual cannot think or act in a human way. The individual looks for half human answers to human needs. The individual thinks they need “stuff” in order to live a happy life. The individual tends not see people when in the company of others but only potential sources of stuff. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that no matter how much stuff is jammed into someone’s life, it does not yield human flourishing and there will be no transformation. There is only human being, when we find ourselves, together. You and me: Us together: No them.

Descartes got modernity off to a false start with his ‘cogito ergo sum’ (“I think therefore I am”). He kicked off a tradition of certainty about the self and uncertainty about the ‘other’. But without anyone else, there is no self. Everything that I know about me, came to me as a gift from someone else. Even my body was the outcome of the activity of others.

Tough though it is to pose this question, there is power, amazing power to heal our world, simply by knowing and acting for the sake of community. To be human is to be together.

About the Author: Rev. Graham Long
Rev. Graham Long is the Pastor and CEO of The Wayside Chapel. For the past 10 years, he has provided love and support to people on and around the streets of Sydney's Kings Cross who are homeless, mentally ill, drug addicted and often forgotten by society. Through the Wayside Chapel, Graham has created a community with 'no us and them'. A community free of judgement for people just to 'be'.
1 comment
Christine Tenni-Smith
DECEMBER 12, 2014 @ 01:16
Thank you Graham for your commitment to those who need you and those to come and your team. As the saying goes; "If not for the Grace of God, there go I".I am a dear, and very close friend; call her my sister and have know her for over 50 years of Jane Crowe! Not a day goes by in my life that something or someone reminds me how blessed I am to have her as my dearest friend. Just seems like yesterday that we were jumping of the swing into the river as kids and laughing out loud at the silliest of things and baking fairy cakes and pikelets to take on a picnic up to Mossman George!MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAVE A WONDERFUL STREET PARTY!!!!!
dixie link-gordon
MARCH 31, 2015 @ 02:16
Thanks Rev. Graham, for sharing thankfulness & kindness runs deep with you mob..
Peter Collins
APRIL 28, 2015 @ 10:28
Came across your article in the Age. Agree with it 100%. The whole issue is sad. Sad, leavened with tawdry, hypocritical, short sighted and pathetic. From the time of the offence, through the sentencing, to the execution and to the time after it. Sad. I was going to respond on the newspaper website - but it was already filled with the ravings of the shouty. A president hoping to become popular by enforcing the penalty. A PM hoping to become popular by opposing it. Every politician and most commentators who have grandstanded over this, have demeaned themselves and achieved nothing . Sad. And at the end of it all; Justice? Questionable. Drug trafficking deterred? No. Indonesia or Australia a better place? No. Human life cheapened? Yes. Rational discussion about human dignity and the value of life? Less. Anybody better off? No. A Season of sadness, followed by hope that enough of us will stop, think and reflect about what it is we are here for and trying to do. P.S. I have known people lost to heroin. I regard trafficking it as on a par with murder. Any process that leaves me feeling sorry for the perpetrators is a sorry one indeed.
APRIL 28, 2015 @ 10:54
Very wise and compassionate words. Thank you .
NOVEMBER 12, 2015 @ 12:03
Graham, a word of encouragement to you. Keep it up.I recently installed a battery charger down the back yard, about 40m away from the house. At night I can see the leds on the charger from the kitchen window shining brightly but during the day they are not visible.I thought it analogous of your work.... the darker society gets, the brighter your light shines, even though your message stays the same. Keep the lights on.Cheers Ed
NOVEMBER 12, 2015 @ 12:33
I didn't realise you have a blog. So, it's a nice discovery.The bible I use to read and to study is the King James version. I'm currently reading 2 Thessalonians and the study notes often give the Greek word e.g. rest is anesis, "release" or "relaxation" and falling away is "apostasia". I like the King James for the beautiful language but mostly because God is present with me as I read and study. I need all the help I can get!How fortunate you are to be near our beautiful Opera House. "When Utzon's necessary angel alighted at Bennelong Point the whole inner city shifted its ground. Circular Quay, The Rocks, Woolloomooloo and Walsh Bay took on a new existence. Macquarie Street found a goal, became what it was always meant to be, a grand boulevard running from Hyde Park to the water." (David Malouf, "An Angel at Bennelong Point" March 2009. )
Rosie Logie
NOVEMBER 12, 2015 @ 06:04
Graham,Sorry, you lost me!My ear, like yours is tuned into European languages which have produced in English a multicultural miscellany with little Asian language influence..Can you hear distinctions between Asian languages spoken around you? I like listening to Chinese people talking together on the train, I have no idea what they are saying but their intonations are lively. My ear is not tuned into Japanese, Korean, Thai...Most of these countries use an ideographic written language. Imagine if we English-speaking bods were required to absorb this knowledge prior to being allowed into the Pacific Asean network!Rosie
NOVEMBER 18, 2015 @ 04:07
Well said as always Graham. We need more people like you in the world.
FEBRUARY 26, 2016 @ 11:57
The miracle is in being. A being is but a reflection of another. Thank you for sharing these thoughts on the individual. Poignant.
Our Social Being – and why it matters in Mental Health and Suicide - Safety Risk .net
MARCH 01, 2020 @ 06:50
[…] Graham Long (former CEO of The Wayside Chapel in Sydney’s Kings Cross) describes; we live in a world that […]
Our Social Being – and why it matters in Mental Health and Suicide - Safety Risk .net
MARCH 01, 2020 @ 06:50
[…] of The Wayside Chapel in Sydney’s Kings Cross) describes; we live in a world that encourages a ‘privitisation of self’. This is a world where we are drawn to consider people predominately as individuals and often in […]
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