“I’m doing this for me.”

Sounds entirely selfish doesn’t it? But I wonder whether one of our most basic needs is to be able to share whatever we have to give for the benefit of others. Giving to others, whether it be through paid or volunteer work, creative ventures or our human relationships seems to me to be a basic need that brings with it a sense of satisfaction that I am valued.

Henri Nouwen once said, ‘We will never believe we have anything to give unless there is someone able to receive’.

I used this idea in my first book, An Improbable Feast, to stress the importance of listening. Listening enables the other to share what they may desperately want to tell. Listening is the antidote to closing in on one’s self. Listening is a preventative to the emergence of the emotionally damaging belief that ‘no-one cares’.

But it also works the other way. That for my own emotional good I need to express myself; and I do so with the intention of contributing to the project of human well-being and human flourishing. And that makes me feel good! Whether someone is prepared to listen is something else!

The World Service #4

14 May 2020

In a previous program I mentioned the thoughts-actions-feelings triangle that I found so helpful when I was dealing with depression a few years ago – and still today! Depression dogs us with debilitating bad feelings and bad thoughts.

When the psychologist asked me to write down anything that makes me feel good, I found it difficult to come up with anything! So she stayed with me on this until I came up with one thing and asked me to practice it when I left.

She knew that if I could start with a simple achievable action, that would have the potential to positively affect the feeling part of the triangle; it would have a positive impact on the other two.

This program continues to explore how this triangle works.

It has been International Nurses Week. 

It falls on the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale who might be called the patron saint of nursing. 

Her legacy of courage, professionalism and commitment to care, in the face of rampant disease, is rightfully celebrated, as the spotlight falls on those in the medical and caring sector who continue in her footsteps during this pandemic.

Secondly, a short video from Thailand.

Westerners like me may find it a little bit kitsch. But if you get past the Buddhist-Thai cultural surface, it illustrates the thoughts-actions-feelings triangle beautifully – an initial action leads to positive thoughts and ultimately to happy feelings – and so the cycle continues. 

There’s also more than a hint of that same contagious gratitude we feel for nurses and medico’s that is being expressed during the current pandemic. A gratitude that contains the seeds of hope for a better world that elevates these values. 

In Australian culture, any number of videos could be put together to illustrate the same dynamic: neighbours helping each other out in floods and fires, for example. The gratitude feeling lifts our thoughts and actions. We are lifted up by the wonderful self-giving actions of others and feel more connected across society.

And talking about connecting, we conclude with a video of musicians, originating in India, who are finding new ways to get together to express their aspirations of hope for a better post-Covid world. Their hope also springs from that same gratitude sparked by the selfless response of so many first responders.

It’s a swell I think we need to maintain – a grassroots movement of the people for a kinder world.

I hope you enjoy the program. Please contact me at geoff@geoffboyce.com with comments and possible ideas and resources for future programs.

As with all my work, I pay my respects to the Kaurna people, the Aboriginal custodians of the land where I live. May we walk together in harmony.

The World Service #3

As the Covid 19 pandemic seems to have reached its peak in Australia, I think we are at the most challenging time. We’re all dying to get out and businesses are dying to restart to stop the personal, social, emotional and economic bleeding. The stress in the home, the financial stresses, the inequalities and the livelihood of our children, who may not understand why they have to be cooped up at home all day long with parents – parents who’d probably give an arm and a leg to have a good night’s sleep.

But we are being asked for just a bit more patience. To resist the tantalising temptation.

The brutally honest Alanis Morissette has just released a couple of new songs. We begin the program with one of them, ‘Smiling’. Taken together, her three new songs are a stunning personal revelation.

I have chosen ‘Smiling’ because it’s what I do, even though, like the illusory smooth gliding of the duck on the lake surface, underneath, the feet are going flat out.

To develop our own personal resilience, I suggest we have to get down below the smile to what our ‘duck’s feet’ are doing. That’s really the point of The World Service. Inspiration – YES! But resilience to maintain it, as well.

I have asked a good friend of mine to share three steps she takes to grow her inner resilience.  Then I have included a ‘Let Go’, chant to continue this mood of inner contemplation. I hope you find this helpful.

Finally, I have dug up a song by some dear friends of mine, who had a band called Eat the Menu in the 1990’s. But with a new recording contract, they changed their name to The Mercy Bell in 1996. This song, ‘Always’ was their first new single under the new label.

I’m sure they would all be horrified if they knew I had dug this up from a recording of one of those Saturday morning TV shows – that one hosted by the crazy Dylan – if you go back that far! But even though we don’t get the benefit of the beautiful lush strings on the CD and the official video, I think those who remember Mercy Bell’s stunning live performances will appreciate this live version. I think the message comes through. “It’s all going to be OK”. 

But first, as is our custom in Australia, I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which I live. I pay my respect to elders of the Kaurna people, past, present and emerging. 
May we walk together in harmony.

The World Service#2, 24 April 2020

In this program: 

A wonderful song from Jimmy Nail supported by master guitarist Mark Knopfler…introducing thoughts and feelings that come from any social change. In this case the demise of the ship building industry in the UK.

As the Covid 19 curve begins to flatten, the queston is being asked: What comes next? What will be the new normal?

Jimmy Nail offers these thoughts:

This was a big river
But that was long ago
That’s not now, that’s not now…
But what do they do all day
And what are they supposed to say
What does a father tell his son?
If you believe that there’s a bond between our future and our past
Try to hold on to what we have
We build them strong, we built to last

‘Cause this is a mighty town
Build upon solid ground
And everything they’ve tried so hard to kill
We will rebuild

This is a big river
I want you all to know I’m so very proud
This is a big river
But that was long ago
That’s not now
This is a big, big river
And in my heart I know it will rise again
The river will rise again

But the Covid 19 pandemic offers wider and deeper challenges – but also an opportunity to ‘reset’ our world.

Australian Singer-songwriter Shane Howard, who appears during the Anzac Day Concert, ‘Music From The Home Front’, has written a poignant lament about the pre-Covid 19 world. In association with Shane, I have produced this music video.

The pandemic presents a wonderful opportunity to ‘spiral up’, as Sam Neil suggested in our first program. To reimagine our world to address some of these issues Shane Howard points toward. 

Then I offer an insight given to me by a psychologist when I was seeking help for depression. I offer it as a quietness reflection to empower us as we get in touch with our own personal thoughts and feelings in our own situations.

And finally, an inspirational song we can all sing along with, to open our hearts and minds to others at risk in our world.

A World Service

I was ringing a friend who was recently ‘let go’ from her job at a university.

I love the irony of that phrase, ‘let go’; as if previously tethered and now presented with freedom! ‘Let go’, I thought to myself, might inadvertently say a lot about the attitude of an organisation toward its employees. But anyway…

It was Monday and her last day was the previous Friday. I was mindful that change, whatever it is, brings with it its own grief. Most of us know about Elizabeth Kubler Ross and her ‘Five Stages of Grief’. She would know them. But there’s a big difference about knowing about them and experiencing them.

With the pandemic distancing rules, there had been no Friday afternoon farewell drinks. So I was wondering how she was getting on, such rituals denied her.

She told me that on Sunday morning she was looking around for some encouragement and inspiration. She had nearly clicked on to a church service online, but it didn’t feel right.

This got me thinking. How many non-church goers might be looking for something deeper than Facebook for inspiration? The chaplain in me couldn’t resist. The result is ‘The World Service’ – a ‘service’ to bring inspiration, encouragement and hope from the on-line world back to the on-line world.

Here’s my first attempt. I hope you enjoy it.

Two Encouraging Signs

There are so many incidental things going on triggered by the threat of the Corona Virus pandemic. Here are two little snippets.

  1. A Demonstration of the Downside of Competition

Fran Kelly’s Introduction to a segment on ABC Radio National ‘Breakfast’ on Tuesday morning:

In clinical trials and laboratories worldwide, the hunt is on to find a vaccine to protect us against COVID-19. Hundreds of trials are currently underway. In 1964, Stanley Plotkin invented the vaccine to beat the infectious disease rubella and now he’s working with six companies to combat coronavirus.

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/covid-19-vaccine-being-developed-carefully-but-in-a-hurry/12084990

The interview begins with Stanley Plotkin:

‘Let me say that I have never seen the vaccine community so united in the effort to develop a vaccine. You say that I’m working with six companies. In fact I’m working with many more than that…there are currently about 40 different efforts to develop a vaccine…

In 2015 I proposed that there be the creation of an organisation that would produce vaccines that would not have a commercial benefit; that is, it wouldn’t be a vaccine that would make money, but be a vaccine that would be directed against an emerging infection. That organisation now exists.

The forward thinking to create that organisation has created the platform for virologists to work collaboratively as a knowledge-sharing community, a network of self-determining research teams. This collaborate, sharing approach means less time lost in chasing down dead ends giving much quicker responses to producing effective vaccines for the world community.

Fran Kelly (later in the interview):

What are the lessons learned, or that need to be learned, from that fight to find a vaccine for rubella (In the ’60’s measles pandemic) and what the world needs now in its fight against Covid-19?

Stanley Plotkin:

Well I think two lessons. One is, in the development of a rubella vaccine there was a lot of competition…In other words, people not working together. Well that has changed! …So at least in this case, people are working together.

The second point is…we are moving much faster than was possible in the ’60’s because we have many more ways of developing vaccines than we had in the 1960’s.

My delight in this interview has little to do with viruses and vaccines. Rather, my delight is in yet another living proof of the validity of Laloux’s projection of a new paradigm shift in the way we organise – away from the Industrial, with its fixation on profit-making and competition to the ‘soulful’ with hearts and minds set on wholeness – away from ‘industry’ through hierarchical and meritocratic structures, to distributed decision-making among cooperative teams of contributors, each of equal status – away from bureaucratic boxes to the free flow and weaving of evolutionary creation. The anti-rubella vaccine could have been available worldwide so much more quickly, saving misery among millions of women and children, had it not been for the industrial mindset of the time. Stanley Plotkin is to be celebrated for initiating a new kind of organisation, one with a higher vision than profit-making through competition.

2. Steven Sondheim – a hospitable musical genius

Later on Radio National, ‘The Stage Show’ with Michael Caffcart:
Stephen Sondheim — taking a razor to conventions (Part I)

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/the-stage-show/stephen-sondheim-90th-birthday-musical-theatre-composer-lyricist/12044816

I am not a big fan of Musicals. But I am intrigued by Stephen Sondheim. He seems to me to completely embody Nouwen’s conception of radical hospitality in his approach to creating and producing music.

For example, he was asked to explain what he thought was the difference between opera and musicals. In opera, he said, the composer creates the music, and performance necessitates finding the singer/actor who can reproduce what the composer has created. In musicals, for Sondheim, it is a matter of writing for the singer/actor.

Sondheim seems to have upended the motive for the creative process, just as Nouwen’s conception of radical hospitality upends our understanding of creating and maintaining human relationships. In terms of Nouwen’s conception, Sondheim creates space for the performer to be free to be who they uniquely are; the composition has been tailored to the unique personhood of the performer. This frees the actor to engage fully. It precludes any process of mechanical replication of what the composer may have written.

I recall a conversation with my friend Rod Boucher when he had finished touring as a support act for AC-DC: to be on the road performing your hits exactly the way they sound on the records, night after night, is one of the most deadening of human experiences.

And in like manner, Sonheim’s approach as composer/producer/director rubs off on the performers, performing to each audience as valued, respected and unique, not merely to stroke one’s own ego, but to deeply connect, conveying the composer’s intention.

This is Nouwen’s radical hospitality in action.

Put another way, the composer is not composing for his own satisfaction, but serving a higher and broader purpose. That requires taking the means of fulfilling that purpose into a hospitable relationship of mutual engagement. For Sondheim, his art cannot be commodified.

Human Foolishness – a Lament

After Boris Johnson was elected new Prime Minister of the UK, a friend simply commented, probably on behalf of a large proportion of Brits, ‘God help us!’.

How did they get into this mess? And how is his fellow charlatan in the US able to continue to get away with ripping the heart out of his country?

I thought of a song, a similar lament, written by Australian singer-song-writer, Shane Howard. I put it into a video, which will be played at Pilgrim this Sunday with the 9.30 congregation.

I hope you like it!