April 22nd, 2018
For many, today marks the fourth Sunday of Easter; a day more commonly referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The name derives from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, which is read this day and celebrated as both an archetypical blueprint of complete leadership and the singular narrative of sacrifice ever present in any transformative agent. This is, for all intents and purposes a day of CALLING when young children celebrate first holy communions, men and women profess vows of fidelity, and the world hopefully draws back, if only for a moment, to take stock of where we are being called in this particular point of time?
‘I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.
‘I am the good shepherd;
I know my own
and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.
And there are other sheep I have
that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock,
and one shepherd.
Leadership, soaked in this endearing mystery of self-sacrifice cannot be blind to today’s reality. The Good Shepherd sees clearly coming storms, is aware of thunder before it cracks, and knows intimately those predators seeking harm at any cost in his midst. This is precisely why I think it is imperative to call out the monsters in our midst, those tyrannical wolves devouring the flock with what I see as unparalleled, unchallenged, and what I can only call savage barbarism.
Monster 1: Addiction
“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.” ― Edgar Allan Poe
No matter what way you look at it, addiction, in its many forms, be they illicit, licit, or simply societally accepted and encouraged – is completely engulfing large segments of our nations. This, for me, is tantamount to a raging fire moving through a wooden skyscraper. Something radical is needed. It is almost as though a generational genocide is underway, systemically and purposely targeting members of our community – destroying lives one hit; one hook at a time. But why? But how? I see a culture of use growing, a zombie nation of chasers radically enabled by products, persons, places, and things. Obviously there is much more to this story as entire governments are now mobilizing responses to the Opioid Epidemic, and trying to offer some semblance of a counter balancing…
My fear, from the dark corners where I often work, is that this monster is only going to get worse.
Monster 2: Mental Illness
“Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden away and never spoken about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s first brought out into the open.”
I don’t know where to begin here. Have our minds become the new battlefield of this millennia? Have we put far too much significance on the “diagnostic method,” and are now desperately trying to de-emphasize the significance of such labels? Just look at the “Adderall Affect” and ADHD. The whole thing seems to be one big mess and – NOT WORKING. Maybe I’m a fool for putting it this way but for me, any suicide is one too many… any person living in isolation, oppression, and abject vulnerability is one too many… any person living on a cocktail of medications so extreme they are a living zombie… is one too many. Obviously, as stated above, there is far more to this story than my limited perspective and call to crisis – especially in keeping the countless people working day in and day out in the trenches of mental illness. More must be done.
Monster 3: Homelessness
We have come dangerously close to accepting the homeless situation as a problem that we just can’t solve.
I work everyday with the homeless. It is more than a job; it is one of the most complex and challenging crises of our times. My passion is finding a solution… in some form or fashion. And still, at the end of everyday I get in my car and ask the same damn question – how? How, in a world drenched in such magical innovation and opulent wealth can anyone of our fellow humans be left without a safe place to shelter – or affordable housing for that matter? It is truly one of the most mind boggling phenomenas of the modern world. We have come so far as a species and yet on any given night in CANADA, upwards of 35,000 citizens are homelessness. How is this even a reality, and why aren’t more screaming from the rooftops about it? Why have we not yet solved this problem?
My fear, in complete candour, is that homelessness, and the greater issue, POVERTY has become a massive industry, one which in itself fuels addiction, mental illness, and criminality.
Monster 4: Loneliness
“To be lonely is to feel unwanted and unloved, and therefor unloveable. Loneliness is a taste of death. No wonder some people who are desperately lonely lose themselves in mental illness or violence to forget the inner pain.” ― Jean Vanier,
Never before have we as a society been so connected; yet, never before have so many of us lived in isolation, loneliness, and “information control.” Social platforms, massive and minute can result in the opposite of their purpose – authentic relationships. I used to consider myself a very sociable person, with lots of friends, a strong professional network, and the ability to be amenable with the best of them. Like many others, after facing a personal tragedy all of that vanished into thin air… who was left? To be frank – no one, not one of those old “happy faces” hung around while my teeth were kicked in… well, except one saving grace.
We are social creatures and yet this need has been falsely replaced by a “social network,” the personal details of which have been sold to data-trolling-farms. It’s sad, pathetic, and all together telling. We live on a lonely planet.
Monster 5: Money
“The causes which destroyed the ancient republics were numerous; but in Rome, one principal cause was the vast inequality of fortunes.”
AMERICAN EDITOR AND WRITER (1758-1843)
Our world is rich in resources. Human capital is plentiful. Innovation is vibrant, responsive, and breaking upon a new age of marvel and exploration. Yet, billions upon billions live in poverty while plutocrats hold the strings of wealth and power like never before. Maybe this in itself is not a bad thing but surely there can be a better calibration of DISTRIBUTION? What I see in my daily work is a bubbling and brewing middle class angry at the ever-increasing cost of living while the 1% get wealthier and wealthier. One way or another this will need to change.