Sometimes inspiration for writing comes from crazy sources and the one thing I have learned since I started to write, is that when I get a flash of an idea, that means I need to write about it.
So yes - the statement above is a reference to the passing of Malcolm Fraser this week. A man who in my younger years I quite despised. Too busy maintaining the rage for Gough!
But it is also a reflection of a homily I listened to today at Mass. I have to say my mass going is not as regular as it used to be, but I rarely leave without some kind of takeaway to reflect upon.
Tonight the priest made a reference to the challenge of the Western church, when compared to the Latin church of South America. One in terminal decay it seems, one booming. One constantly gazing inward - where are the people? where are the priests? - the other looking outward at the world in which it finds itself, focused on what it should be doing in that world to help. A focus and world view that the new Pope would have the old staid western church taking a long hard look at itself to achieve.
So where does Malcolm fit into this?
Where does finding happiness fit into this?
I will get to both shortly.
The strongest focus of Malcolm Fraser’s later years was the championing of some of the most marginalized and poorest people not only in our country but also in our region and the wider world. It is clear to see this with the recent news coverage of his passing.
His work with CARE Australia, his strong stance on apartheid, his consistent advocacy and welcoming approach to refugees, his bringing into law the legislation that built upon the first steps of the Whitlam government in relation to land rights for Indigenous Australians. All of these activities go a long way to making up for the events of 1975 ( yes I know - almost I say!)
His later years show most clearly that he was a true conviction man, a man who lived his life with dignity and purpose. He was not tied to any particular ideology or mode of thinking but was very clearly motivated by a clear vision of what was right.
One of his most famous sayings was Life wasn’t meant to be easy - but I think he realised that it also did not need to be as hard as it was for some.
So back to the comment at mass.
It was one of the shortest homilies I have heard for a while but quite profound in its simplicity. Whilst the church looks inward and complains about the state of affairs, it kind of misses the main point. The church is not here to look inward - it is here to look outward, to seek out what it can do to make the community it finds itself actually in a better one for everyone. The church needs to be a part of the actual world of today, to take its place and to look for how it can reach out and help to make life better for others. The Latin church by focussing outward - seems to have the recipe right for a vibrant and happy community.
So I come to my final point.
One of the most obvious things I can now reflect on from my time of being really depressed, was my almost total inward focus. I say almost, as I think my children (as I have alluded to in the past), pulled back from the brink, to not succomb to thinking inward. I am very grateful to them for them.
Of course when life is so bleak and dark and everything is shit, the hardest thing at times is getting out of bed. But when we are on the path to recovery, perhaps what we need to do - is to turn our thinking outward.
What can I do to make someone else’s life easier? How can I contribute to making life better for others?
I know its not what you want to hear when you are still at the bottom of the well.
Mainly because when you are there you are just focussing all of your attention treading water. However a part of our recovery is to turn that inward negative thinking into outward positive thoughts. I am not talking about thinking we are awesome, but doing concrete things that can make someone else’s life better.
We can do this by making a choice to do something. To start small and do one small thing that is about someone else. When we focus on things outside our head, when we focus on doing something good for someone else - it allows us to move further away from the shit and closer to a life of purpose that we have missed for so long. It allows us to experience joy, when we have been unable to enjoy anything. It may even be that it simply allows us to feel again - where before there was emptiness.
One of my mantras on this road I am on is to #findthegood and to share it around. But I am also looking at the truth of #dogoodfeelbetter. Current thinking on depression talks about - Positive activity interventions - small achievable actions that actually trigger a positive emotion in the mind of someone suffering from depression. It could be a simple act of helping someone carry something at the supermarket, it could be volunteering at a school event, it could be standing up for someone on public transport - Just small acts of being kind.
Whilst the process of doing the good is the starting point - the outcome of doing for others is that you receive rewards too. Maybe not in the way you think you might, but always in a surprising way to make you feel just a little bit better.
A depressed person mind is coded to only see the negative - we need to start to build habits that allow positive experiences to become normal again in our life.
Thanks Mal - who would have thought!
Donated to Cylcone Pam yet? Care Australia has an appeal going and I think Malcolm would like us to chip in if you haven’t already :)