Tag Archives: U2

Year of activism #29

A funeral is not a place I would think of immediately as a place to exercise activism, yet I got to see first hand how it could be a place to show a pathway to be a mental health activist this week. A working class man, a carpenter, a son, a brother, an uncle, a grandfather, a dad, a husband, a friend, a fisherman, a drinking buddy, a lover of Johnny Cash, a person with type 2 diabetes, a person with depression parted ways with this side of the planet by his own hand. There are so many reasons why this happens and it leaves a very long tail of grief behind.

Men’s health, in particular men’s mental health is faced with an enormous challenge in combating suicide. If you work in the construction industries you are more likely to suicide than die on site. Tradies, or men in blue-collar jobs, have some of the highest suicide rates in Australia with construction workers killing themselves at double the rate of any other occupation. I am acutely aware that my son-in-law, who works in this field, has been to more funerals of his peers than I ever have of people from my professional group and he is many decades younger than me. So on the memorial table at this funeral was a hard hat. In the gathered, there was some hi-vis vests under the jackets keeping out the cold. In the words of his children and sister were reminders of his love of making things, saving things and creating something from other people’s throw-aways.

There was no hiding or gilding of the lily, that this death was the result of deep, untreated pain and distress, chemical imbalances and thought processes that closed access from pathways to health, love and care. All the speakers talked openly about their love and their loss, being bereft didn’t stop them being brave and honest and talking their truth to power. The power of silence, patriarchy, machismo that literally suffocates and strangles men as well as women.

As the memorial service went on, the ocean view, calm, kind and breathing itself in and out with each tidal movement, was a simple comforting backdrop to the sobs and smiles punctuating the speeches and images. Somehow the choice of the venue was an advocacy of its own, reminding us all of the healing powers of our coast and the baptism of water to wash away all that holds us back from wholeness.

Instead of flowers, we were invited to make a donation to the Black Dog Institute and not to just do this silently but to exchange our monetary gift and take a badge to wear, to show something on the outside about what was happening on the inside. Like all activisms, this movement too has its pins, t-shirts, hats and stickers.

The signature tune holding the service together was U2’s The Wanderer written for Johnny Cash and they chose the Cash version to share. The evocative love for June Carter as a constant source from the well Johnny Cash drew from, as it was in the life of the man we were mourning, his life long love being a constant in his life. The power of music to tell a story and to also remind us all that we don’t have to wander alone, even when we might feel lonely. There is always room for redemption.

Then there was the gathered, young and old, in these COVID19 times, working out how to negotiate our way around with social distancing, that some of us were not able to observe when the grief got too much. Signing in to help with tracing in case of a problem in the future, a reminder that while we are doing great in SA, we know our neighbours over the border won’t be able to farewell their loved ones in such a public way for a long, long time. Another sobering reminder of the deep relationship between our private and public health. We have to look after each other, if we want to be able to walk us all home when a life has been well loved and lived. Public health – whether a virus or depression – is all of our business. While an individual gets the symptoms, carries the disease and may eventually die, we are all connected and can help stop the spread of any disease. Health and well-being is public not private. Bringing suicide into the public spaces is a step towards taking this pandemic. Around 3,000 people suicide in Australia every year, and there are fears about the convergence with the virus which has killed 145 people at today’s date in Australia this year.

Be a mental health activist and keep an eye out for your family, friends and neighbours and most especially your workmates. And if you or anyone you know needs help give one of these places a call:

The Wanderer

I went out walking
Through streets paved with gold
Lifted some stones
Saw the skin and bones
Of a city without a soul
I went out walking
Under an atomic sky
Where the ground won’t turn
And the rain it burns
Like the tears when I said goodbye

Yeah I went with nothing
Nothing but the thought of you
I went wandering

I went drifting
Through the capitals of tin
Where men can’t walk
Or freely talk
And sons turn their fathers in
I stopped outside a church house
Where the citizens like to sit
They say they want the kingdom
But they don’t want God in it

I went out riding
Down that old eight lane
I passed by a thousand signs
Looking for my own name

I went with nothing
But the thought you’d be there too
Looking for you

I went out there
In search of experience
To taste and to touch
And to feel as much
As a man can
Before he repents

I went out searching
Looking for one good man
A spirit who would not bend or break
Who would sit at his father’s right hand
I went out walking
With a bible and a gun
The word of God lay heavy on my heart
I was sure I was the one
Now Jesus, don’t you wait up
Jesus, I’ll be home soon
Yeah I went out for the papers
Told her I’d be back by noon

Yeah I left with nothing
But the thought you’d be there too
Looking for you

Yeah I left with nothing
Nothing but the thought of you
I went wandering

Source: Musixmatch Songwriters: Clayton Adam / Evans David / Hewson Paul David / Mullen Laurence / The Wanderer lyrics © Polygram Int. Music Publishing B.v., Universal-polygrm Intl Pub Obo U2

Sparks will fly #47 #prayer

I can’t imagine prayer without preparation. Taking the moment to be still, the gathering of heart and mind to be present, the patience for arrival, the stopping to receive or just bask in adoration of the wonder and beauty of what some call God. This is what happens with the riffs, the solitary notes, the spotlight and in the darkness as a song takes shape at a U2 concert. I honestly can’t think of any other experience that explains what getting ready to pray is like. Standing for hours to wait for the messengers to arrive and strike the chord is as real to me as David picking up his lyre.  Psalm after psalm arrive covering all the same topics, we are familiar with desolation, consolation, liberation, elevation. The theatre and drama at the heart of community and any celebration or ceremony are there in living colour with sound bouncing off the walls of the stadium and the high priests invoke the faithful to every call and response in a relationship founded on love and mutuality.

Ceremony and ritual are essential and every time we gather as community finding ways to notice love showing up and making the space for it to be nurtured, held, noticed is the act of prayer.

I have had a lot of ceremony this week. I have gathered with various tribes in my life. I have been held and even done a little holding myself. I have celebrated and been celebrated. I have felt the heart of community beating inside of me and reconnected with some hearts across time and space. I have known and been known. I have been at prayer.

Some say prayer is the noticing of God. It derives from an old French root meaning to ask earnestly, beg, or entreat. I have asked earnestly, done some begging, pleading and imploring. I have earnestly asked for the winds to blow smoke in another direction and begged for another chord to be played. I have honoured the work of others, been in awe of the generosity of generations being revealed in the simplicity of a hug and a laugh. I have been resting at the feet of Zen masters of facilitation and of course the guitar (a deep bow to The Edge).

Imagine if we were all out at the edge? On the cusp of striving to be our best selves, taking a course in courage to be a step braver, half a shade bolder? Surely this is an invocation? Yes Lord, take me to the edge of my discomfort so I transform and in doing so be transformative. I have been living on this edge for a while now and I am beginning to see signs of transformation. I am rising and sparks are flying. The plumes of flames are taking on new meaning, purgatory and the purging may even be coming to an end for me. Clarity is arriving and with it answered prayer. A very long intro has been played and all for the purpose of getting ready to receive. I am recognising resistance is still turning up, but it is not in a way that it paralyses, more in a way that invites curiosity for its place and what purpose it may be serving and perhaps to protect, select and deselect needs.

The generosity of older Aboriginal people and their endless waiting in this undeclared war of more than 200 years is a constant inspiration. The bonds never loosened from the land no matter how violent the displacement, the land continues to hold them in place inviting us into the circle. I am deeply grateful to these invitations and to those who do the inviting or broker me an invitation. From these invitations, I learn about resistance, resilience, patience and prayer, how to pick up the lyre and sing the psalms.

It has been a big week of prayer and answered prayer, of celebrations and ceremony, of surprises and magic, of divine intervention, of addressing audacity and being in community. The promise of liberation is on the lips and tongues of the prophets. My job is to turn up, to praise, give thanks and pick up the mantle and sometimes to walk away. The walk of the pilgrim continues in confidence that the sparks flying are all gift, fuel feeding off what needs to be left behind, keeping what hot what needs to be kept on the boil and enabling the consumption of energy be transformative.

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Photo by Tikkho Maciel on Unsplash