I was chuffed this week to be part of a Radio 4 programme called “A Culture of Encounter” along with Sue, one of the regular attendees at one of Cyrenians community cook clubs. The programme charted the way in which society has become more divided and atomized through the growth of wealth inequality, greater and greater fear of difference and the rise of the digital economy.
One of the contributors, evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar spoke of how the best way – so defined because it is what we are hardwired as humans to respond best to – is singing, dancing and eating together. When asked if policy makers should encourage more of these three activities and less big strategic plans he replied, “yes”, and I have to say I agree with him.
We are not autonomous beings, as so much of the narrative of individualism (which is the bedrock of a consumerist society, where success is defined by what you own and what you have that others don’t) would have us believe. We are built to live and flourish in connectedness, in relationships, and in each other’s presence. Solitude is good. Silence is powerful and alone time can be rejuvenating, but they all are part of developing and nurturing our capacity to be in relationships. Which is why our community cook clubs have been so successful. They are places where both body and soul are filled.
This is alcohol awareness week. Cyrenians Recovery Service is a space where those who are on a journey away from dependence on alcohol can gather with others who know their struggle and will form a community around them on the way.
There are many reasons why folk end up in a place of addiction, but one very common theme is a struggle with relationships with others, often rooted in damaged early relationships. The hub, which had over 6300 visits last year from people in recovery, is space, like the community cook clubs, where folk and simply accepted for themselves. Lives are shared as bread is broken round a table and stories are shared in solidarity and hope.
The Recovery Service runs groups which are therapeutic in nature and courses which challenge and support people through their recovery journey, as well as one to one support and many opportunities through the peer led ‘Pre-Sync 27’ Recovery Hub. But the thing which sustains those who are part of the Cyrenians recovery community is knowing they are with others who understand their journey. These others are not all the same. They began their journey from different places, they went to different schools, had different jobs, lived in different places, have different backgrounds; they are simply fellow travellers on a journey. In their connectedness they find new hope and potential. In sharing the simple things of life, real recovery and healing is possible.
Want to change the world? – find ways of getting connected – live with a culture of encounter; not digitally, but with others who may have a different life but who share a common humanity; and the revolution will begin – with singing, dancing and eating together.
15th November 2017