Julia Grieves takes us on an intrepid voyage out into the deep and murky uncertainty of morality, ethics, beauty and truth in an age of ecological collapse and athropogenic climate change. Only brave souls need apply.
A wonderful talk by creative genius Steve Willis - AKA Light Wizard. Steve covers hope, fear, regret and creativity, threaded through with his story of visual and still art to inspire and create social change.
See more of Steve's unique work here: http://www.lightwizard.com.au/
Alvaro talks to us about his journey to overcome barriers to getting good social stuff done. See more of Alvaro's work at www.creativesuburbs.com
Henry talks about his relationship to social media and technology, the gaps currently filled by mindless browsing, and his personal Manifesto to get back in control of the digital realm.
Audrey talks to The Weekly Service about cacao ceremonies whilst participants at the service enjoy the soothing and spiritual delights of a potent cacao brew. She describes the 'high' as a feminine and gentle experience to help you dip in and dip out of its effects as you wish. Soothing, glowing and a fast track to focussed meditation.
A quick 5 minute Podcast on the need to reduce self-righteousness in any capacity, and the inspiration behind The Weekly Service social media and technology fast.
Aziz Cooper, the Interfaith Officer of Darebin Council, telling his story of Sufism, Islam and the benefits of fasting. If you're interested in this enduring and global faith, Aziz gives a fantastic overview of his interpretation.
Our storyteller this week is Michelle Dabrowski - Entrepreneurial Artist-Activist, Writer, Speaker, Arts Educator, Producer, Vocalist and founder of Montreal Throw Poetry Collective, Slamalamadingdong, and Crescent: A Course for Creative Visionaries.
Michelle is a powerhouse of a human - courageous, inspired, authentic and passionate. Her mission is to resource people with the tools they need to become their best selves and serve the world. We were lucky enough to have Michelle share a few of these tools as well as an original performance piece – a soulful blend of rap, beatboxing, musical song and spoken word poetry.
To find out more about Michelle’s upcoming workshops and performances head to www.michelledabrowski.com
Helene bravely tells her personal journey from pornography to self-compassion, making us ask important questions about how we relate to sexuality in the 21st Century. Thought provoking and inspiring, and articulated with Helene's beautiful, energetic character.
See more of Helene at www.helenepouwels.com
The storyteller for our 20th Weekly Service was Euphemia Russell, the founder of I Wish You Knew. IWYK is a community who share things about their sexual identities & experiences with the aim of overcomming the shame, guilt, and stigma that often accompanies such discussions.
Judging by the overwhelmingly positive discussion we had at the service we think Euphemia is on to something here! To join the community visit the IWYK Facebook Page.
Lina tells her story of rejecting parenthood for practical and ethical reasons. A personal, passionate and articulate take to help us ponder on parenting, and ultimately how we're living our lives.
This week's story is by Tash, an ex-engineer who has a history of 'logical' scientific thinking, now turned spiritual adventurer. Tash spoke to The Weekly Service about her personal passion, the chakra system, and how she has used it to improve her life. If you have recurring issues in your life, or just have a curious mind check out Tash's story.
In our first ever podcast, Henry Churchill talks with The Weekly Service community about Charles Eisenstein's 'New Story of the World', focusing on concepts such as situationism and scarcity and how they relate to his lived experience.
When I was 10 years old I bought my first album – MC Hammer's 'Please Hammer Don’t Hurt Em'. I played it until the tape stretched and the sound went wonky. I drove my parents insane singing along at the top of my lungs. In an effort to teach me about more ‘refined’ classical music and shift my musical tastes away from rap, they enrolled me in a local choir.
It worked, I moved on from rap but not towards classical music. A friend I made at choir told me I had to listen this great new band she’d heard on the radio. She put the headphones over my ears and pressed play and the opening riff of Nirvana’s 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' fried my brain. Those four simple power chords opened up an entire world I never knew existed. I never listened to rap or pop music again – grunge was my new religion. I spent the summer working in my folks’ back yard – mowing the lawn, digging up bamboo, painting the fence – anything to get the precious cash I needed to buy my next fix. The local record store was my church and the guys who worked there were my priests – in flannel and torn jeans.
I remember flicking through the racks until I found Nirvana’s Nevermind – that iconic cover with the baby floating in the pool reaching out towards the dollar bill on a fish hook. I was caught hook line and sinker. I poured over the liner notes on the train ride home, committing the lyrics to memory. When I got to my house I rushed to the stereo, cranked the volume and hit play.
It was pure freedom - exciting, dangerous, raw, confusing and powerful. And best of all, my parents hated it. A bunch of guys in their twenties in Seattle were writing songs that expressed all the confusion, excitement and angst I was feeling and I felt a little less alone because of it.
I would listen to that album over and over again until I knew every chord change by heart. Twenty-five years later I still know all the lyrics. My Dad became more and more concerned about the amount of time he thought I was wasting listening to music. He told me there were more productive things I should be doing with my time. To be fair to him, he could never have foreseen what a pivotal role music would come to play in my life.
Music was my first love and it came to influence every love that followed it. I met my first girlfriend on a choir camp. She was two years older than me – tall, blonde, stunning and impossibly cool. I was an awkward, shy, pimply, gawky fifteen year old. It was a complete coup. By all rights I shouldn’t have stood a chance but I won her over with my nerdy knowledge of obscure bands.
Four years later as a nineteen year old I fell in love for the first time. I was head over heels and it seemed mutual. When she fell for another guy six months later it destroyed me. So I turned to music to get her back – compiling a mixed CD of ‘our’ songs in the hope that reminding her of our common love of Super Furry Animals and Radiohead might be enough to convince her of the error of her ways.
When that didn’t work I inscribed her favourite line from her favourite song on the inside of a ring – ‘My kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder’. But that didn’t work either. So I used music to put my broken heart back together – Jeff Buckley and Joni Mitchell to remind myself I wasn’t alone in my heartache and the Beatles to lift me out of my self-indulgent funk. In a way I guess you could say I used music like a drug – downers to help me feel and express the heartache and uppers to shake me out of it.
But music was always more than a way of modulating my feelings. I began finding truths in the lyrics of great songwriters – Bob Dylan, Glenn Richards, Nick Drake and James Mercer – great wordsmiths who could transmute complex ideas and feelings into revelatory poetry. It was around this time that I set my heart on learning how to do the same and poured most of my late teens and early twenties into mastering the craft of songwriting.
I soon came to appreciate firsthand the power that musicians wield. I would sing my songs at gigs and see people smiling in recognition as they saw themselves in the lyrics. After shows people would tell me that a particular melody or phrase ‘spoke to them’ like it was written especially with them in mind. Sometimes when I got into the zone I could feel the air crackle with electricity as people connected with the music.
On especially good nights it was the closest I have come to feeling what some might describe as a ‘religious experience’ – a strong connection with something bigger than myself – a feeling like I was in service to others – a channel for the music to flow through. In those moments the boundary between me and the audience melted and I felt a deep sense of connection and fulfillment.
I never made a living out of music but it continued to enrich my life. I met my wife at a recording session for my first album. Three years later we bumped into each other again at a record store where I was working. When we met again three years later I finally got my act together. She was scheduled to fly back to London where she was living at the time and I couldn’t let that happen. So I wrote her a song. I called her up a week before she was due to fly out and recorded it on her voicemail. When she called me the next day she had decided to give me a chance. Eight years later I am still grateful to music for bringing us together.
Looking back over my life there are thousands of other examples of the powerful force for good that music has played in my life. But this isn’t just my story. It is the story of every other musician and music lover and, in fact, human on the planet. The ability to create and connect with music is hardwired into all of us. It is the language of the heart – it speaks emotions and truths that words could never convey. And it is this intangible quality that connects us to each other - bypassing our rational mind and going straight to the soul - overcoming divisive beliefs, opinions, attitudes and prejudice with a few simple chords and a drum beat. Music is the glue that binds the world because it reminds us that we are not alone in this wonderful and painful human experience we call life.
It turns out my Dad was both right and incredibly wrong. There is no point to music – it doesn’t produce anything and it could be seen to be a waste of time. But at its greatest it has the power to save the world – one heart and mind at a time.
Story Written By Cameron Elliott
Can you can remember the first names of all eight of your great grandparents? I definitely can’t. Our great grandparents passed away within the last hundred years, some of them within our own lifetimes, and yet we can’t remember their names. Just over a hundred billion people have lived and died on this planet since homosapiens evolved. How many of them are still regularly spoken of today? A few hundred, a thousand at a stretch? A mere drop in the ocean.
In all likelihood within one hundred years no one will remember your name or your life. It is a sobering thought. If you are anything like me you are probably squirming in your seat right now trying to push that frightening thought out of your mind. Why is that?
We like to think we will live forever - if not in the flesh, then in the minds and hearts of those left behind. Throughout the centuries men and women have devised crafty ways of leaving their mark. From Neolithic cave paintings of human hands to Roman graffiti on ancient brothel walls, Greek monuments erected by rich benefactors, the conquering of continents by ambitious tyrants, reality television, and right down to the basic act of procreation - we all want to live forever or at least be remembered. But the painful truth is that even the lucky few who manage to write their names in history’s pages will all eventually be forgotten. Trying to be remembered is a fools’ errand.
I believe the question we should be asking ourselves is not ‘how can I leave my mark’, but rather, ‘how can I make peace with my insignificance’? Religions offer the balm of the ever-after. You don’t need to try to live on in the form of a legacy if you can live forever in heaven. But what of the non-believers? What solace can we find?
I believe there are two options open to us. The first is to strive for something entirely different – not the preservation and remembrance of our self but the preservation and betterment of our species. We can strive to leave the human race in a better state than it was when we arrived here.
The second option is to take comfort from our ultimate insignificance and use this as a source of strength. All our fears, guilt, shame and disappointments become much less daunting when we realise our impotence – they just don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. We don’t matter, and that can be a blessing if we wish.
I vividly recall the first time I realised the extent of my own insignificance. I was in my mid-twenties and on that particular night I was weighed down with a hefty dose of existential angst, guilt, and anxiety. My relationship was in freefall, I was unemployed, I had given up on my dream of being a successful musician and I had no idea what I was going to do next. So I did the only thing I could think to do – I went for a long walk on the beach. It was a clear night and there was no light aside from that cast by the full moon rising over the breakers. There was a warm wind blowing onshore. I looked up at the countless stars dotting the sky in blues, reds, oranges and yellows and then back down at the expanse of sand stretching out in front of me made up of billions of tiny grains of silicon. I felt the cold water pull at my legs comprised of trillions of molecules being pushed and pulled across the planet by the moon rising over my head. Suddenly I found myself smiling and then laughing so hard I had tears pouring down my face. I was just like the sand, water and stars – a tiny part of a vast expansive whole too large to fathom. I still didn’t know what to do with my life but suddenly that didn’t really matter. I felt the weight of the world slip off my shoulders. To be alive and part of the dance was enough. I was so moved by the experience that I wrote a song which you can listen to here.
To return to the two options I spoke of before, I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. I think it is important to seek to make the world a better place, all the while bearing in mind that it is ultimately a futile exercise. And here’s why: because everyone alive today and all those yet to come deserve to live lives full of as much joy, happiness, wonder, health and peace as possible and it is our individual and collective responsibility to ensure this happens. But when it all gets too heavy as it surely will and we feel like Atlas with the world on our shoulders it is helpful to remember that in the end, as Freddy Mercury said, nothing really matters.
This is the transcript of the first story ever told at The Weekly Service.
'Judge not lest ye be judged'. We are all familiar with this saying attributed to Jesus. It implies that those who judge others will be most harshly judged by god when they reach the pearly gates. Many among us don’t believe in such a god or eternal punishment for our sins. Does this mean we are free to judge others? Yes. Does it mean there are no repercussions for our judgement? I would argue the answer is ‘No’. To explain why I would like to share a story with you.
I was fortunate enough to spend most of August travelling through Turkey. My wife works for a travel company and she was offered a great deal on a packaged tour. We always swore we would never go on a tour and fancied ourselves to be intrepid adventurers rather than tourists but the deal was too good to turn down. We spent 20 days in the company of 14 complete strangers. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between was spent in the back pockets of our fellow passengers. By the end of the tour we knew the intricacies of everyone’s bowel movements, weird dietary requirements, neuroses and pet names.
For the first few days everyone go along famously. The neuroses were forgiven and people’s little quirks were hilarious. But by the end of the first week the cracks were starting to show. Alliances had formed, the gossiping had begun and then the knives were out. There were two women from New Zealand (who I came to refer to as the hobbits) who were particularly difficult to get along with. I found myself increasingly irritated by their stingy behaviour.
They’d load up on the free breakfast buffet and then squirrel away nuts, dried fruit, boiled eggs and bread into napkins. When we stopped for lunch at a restaurant they would pull out their own bottled water and their snacks and would start eating them at the table in front of the wait staff. When asked what they would like to eat they ordered nothing and then commenced eating the complementary bread. They’ never order wine but would gladly drink a glass if someone else bought the bottle.
They had made an art form of stinginess. Every time they questioned a bill or didn’t leave a tip I would feel my blood boil and would have to bite my tongue. I judged them them like it was going out of style, until I realised that the person I was really judging was myself. As those of you who know me well will attest, I can be a bit frugal. I’m a quarter Scottish so I am genetically predisposed to tight-arsery. My wife refers to me as stinge and I call her extravagance – we are engaged in an endless game of tug of war with the household finances.
So when I saw my own behaviour reflected back at me through the hobbits I was repulsed. I judged their behaviour and I judged them. And it felt good. I got a kick out of saying ‘that is bad I would never do that’ – but deep in my heart I was actually thinking ‘what a clever way to save a few bucks’. And then I felt sick because I had rejected an aspect of myself. In a way, I had harshly judged my own behaviour. Perhaps this is actually what Jesus was on about when he said ‘judge not lest ye be judged’. It isn’t god that will judge us, it is ourselves.
The other downside of my judgement of the hobbits was that as soon as I judged them I put a barrier up between me and them – ‘They aren’t like me – I am better than them’. This made it very difficult to be open with them and connect with them. This feeling was heightened when I shared my judgements with others in a bitchy backstabbing session. Again it felt good at the time but in a sickly sweet way – kind of like ordering the super-sized slurpy and popcorn and spending the rest of the movie groaning in agony. The next morning after the bitch fest I couldn’t look the hobbits in the eyes. I felt guilty and kind of dirty. Each time I judged them or talked about them behind their backs I lost a bit more respect for myself. Judge not, lest ye be judged.
So I decided to try a different approach. I thought about why I was stingy. As a child my Dad hammered into me the importance of saving money. I remember competitions between me and my brother to see who could make our packs of lollies last the longest. I was brought up believing that money was scarce. My Dad learned this behaviour from his father who learned it from his father and so on. The world has changed and we now have more that we need but I still have that ancient survival instinct hardwired into me – save money or we might starve. I know how ugly thriftiness can be but it is incredibly hard to change.
The hobbits are most likely the same. They too were probably conditioned by their parents and circumstances beyond their control to act as they do. Expecting them to act differently is like expecting a cat not to purr or a dog not to bark. Recognising this and consciously seeing myself in them helped me forgive their behaviour and brought a heightened awareness of my own. It was also an opportunity to remember the power of forgiveness and to be reminded of the virtue of generosity. The more I think about it, the more sense Jesus makes. Judge not, lest ye be judged –but not by god, by yourself. Perhaps we could flip it around: ‘Forgive others so that you may forgive yourself”. We could even take it one step further: ‘Look for the good in others so that you may see the good in yourself’.