Look around you and you will see the all important signs of what our individual and joint efforts have done to shape our world. Would you be shocked or even surprised that a lot of it can be easily described as 'madness'? Would you rather try to explain it all as an evidence of our sanity and clear rational thinking processes? Quite possibly your social viewpoint will determine a large part of the choices you make and where you see that putting your response to these questions. But does that change the empirical evidence that what our actions have done, what we have created are following sane trains of thought? I say that the whole world is mad to a greater or lesser degree depending upon our topic of debate, but with regards building a sustainable human being we have definitively been following a course of madness.
We had graciously been allowed access to the chapel at the palace, and our program began with a singing lesson of sorts. Bea Van Der Kaaij who is the musical director of several local choirs including the renowned Lincoln Choral Society, used singing to help all attended relax and settle in to the collective mood/mindset of our days activities. Our first speaker, announced as Alastair McIntosh, an independent scholar, activist and writer, delivered an interesting discourse laced with much audience participation. His own work is focused on the connection between our environments and our spiritual well-being. His main thrust was to expose the madness of what he described as our individual and community thinking. He used a passage from the Bible to show an historical account of something that was then revealed to be actually an account of colonialism causing madness in people of the day. He skilfully directed us to an understanding of the context of the story of Jesus casting out the mob or Legions from the possessed man who slept and lived in the cemetery. Without going into too much detail about that, I and many others saw the way in which the 'dis-ease' of mental health had caused the society at large to provoke an observable madness in the generation alive at that point of history. We quickly drew parallels to our modern days, and our current understandings of things affecting our mental well-being. After a brief break for refreshments we then were moved into a room over looking the gardens where Revd. Professor Chris Cook took us back into the world of mental and emotional well-being from the perspectives of psychiatry. Chris, professor of spiritual theology & health at Durham University, formerly chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Spirituality Interest Group, showed us how spirituality was now being considered within that profession. Where as formerly spirituality was passed off as something religion based, it is now being included as a fundamental consideration into the cognitive processes of human psyche. It directly impacts upon individuals even if they themselves are unaware of its presence. He used examples of where this had been discovered and how the inclusion of this observation in treatments was having a significant role to play in helping people. Many of the examples cited were from his work in the north east of the country, where unemployment is one of the highest in the United Kingdom. I believe we were all able to draw our own conclusions as to this correlation between the impact on peoples well-being, career opportunities, and social standings.
After lunch, we were introduced to Tom Hodgkinson. Tom author of many books, and editor of a magazine called The Idler, gave a very interesting discourse on his approach to life. He played his Eukalele and sang us a song called Big rock candy mountains, to further explain some of his observation about life and its connection to happiness and well-being. He is now moving back to the metropolis that he escaped some 12 years ago, to try another approach which he hopes will bring him the same joy that he manifests, by running a bookshop/cafe/workshop/information centre in Nottinghill. He revealed how life had even pushed him to the point of mental dis-ease at one point, having a break down. The articulate man before us told a fascinating and yet often too common story about stress, anxiety and collapse of our mental security. In the context of our conference it was heart warming to find this understanding of how to become and be a sustainable human being. More coffee and tea and then we were invited again to choose an activity, breaking off into three groups.
Angela Porter co-founder of Revival Lincolnshire, took a creativity workshop upstairs into the grand sitting room, where she engaged people into activities that require long forgotten or passed down skills. David Greenop from Renew, took a mindfulness workshop in the main auditorium helping people to understand the benefits of meditations and relaxation and quietening of the minds. Kate Bell our local Environmental Coordinator at the City of Lincoln Council took her group into the lounge area downstairs by the garden access, to discuss our sustainability of energy and carbon footprints. I joined this group and we quickly engaged in an easy manner to discuss the personal thoughts we each have, and our concerns with regards not only the environment, energy both renewable and fossil based, and our impact on the issues of 'climate change.' But further to this, how this can and is having an affect on our own personal well-being. Michael Pitcher who is involved in many community support groups and local mental health think-tanks, engaged us all in a final review of the days events, which judging by the amount of questions asked had succeeded in arousing everybody's awareness of this critical issue within society. My own question to the group was, had anyone found anything negative about the day or the subjects being discussed? Seemingly no-one could justify an affirmation, therefore indicating by default a unanimous consideration that the day had given us all a positive response to this issue of mental health and where we go from here. Bea our singing instructress came back to end the conference with yet more singing, rousing everyones spirits yet again with laughter.