I enjoyed listening to Hugh Mackay’s 2017 Gandhi Oration. It was delivered at the University of New South Wales on January 30 and was titled: The State of the Nation Starts in Your Street.
I’ve always believed the importance of the local, but I think it’s important to reduce it further; reduce it to smaller constituent parts. The state of the nation starts in your home; it starts with your family relationships; your relationship with your partner; your relationship with your children; your relationship with yourself. A healthy self opens up the possibility of healthy and life-giving familial and intimate relationships. The health of these in turn open up the possibility of healthy and life-giving neighborhood relationships and so on and so forth.
I’ve lived enough of life, and through enough sad and difficult personal and relational realities to observe the truth of these statements time and time again. I’ve seen time and time again the way that personal ‘ill-health’ (an unwillingness to face into our own shadow and brokenness) flows into relationships and damages those.
Damaged personal relationships and ways of relating impact neighborhoods, towns, cities, and nations. If we can’t make our intimate and familial relationships work, if we can’t healthily overcome their inevitable dysfunction, if we can’t enact the practices of open listening, trusting, loving, supporting, believing the best about others, reconciling, holding, caring, openness, compromise etc. etc. then in my humble view there is little real hope for the neighborhood, the workplace, the city, the nation, and the nations. I feel very very sad about that.
Anyway, have a listen to Mackay, read his books (particularly his social psychology and ethics titles), reflect, start with self (but don’t stay there; don’t underestimate, for your own health and well-being, the importance of putting others and their needs ahead of your own), and work outwards from there. Couple this listening with listening to an article written by Olivia Laing on e future of thloneliness, and then check out her brilliant book, The Lonely City: Adventures of Being Alone.