STHowNotToBeAfraid SUMMARY KEYWORDS people, story, life, jordan peterson, called, community, world, cbt, men, listening, plate, person, friend, culture, piece, means, storytellers, ceiling, conversation, jiminy cricket SPEAKERS Gareth Higgins, Stephen Bradford Long
Stephen Bradford Long 00:13 This is sacred tension, the podcast about the discipline of asking questions. My name is Steven Bradford long. And as always, I have to thank my patrons. They are my personal lords and saviors and I could not do the show without them. So for this week, I have to thank Sean Lena and Andrew, thank you so much. So for anyone who wants to join their number, go to patreon.com forward slash Steven Bradford long for $1 A month $5 A month you get extra content every single week, including the house of heretics podcast where my friend Timothy former Salvation Army officer turned Christian heretic and I talk about religion, Satanism, philosophy, news, all the or whatever else. We you know, whatever else strikes our fancy and it is a live show patrons are invited to join us every Wednesday morning. It is a lot of fun. So if that is interesting to you, then please become a patron and it ensures the long life of the show and my writing. There are other ways to support the show. However, one of the best ways is to just leave five stars on Spotify or Apple podcasts that tells our digital overlords that the show is worth sharing with others and also please subscribe to my newsletter. If you enjoy sacred tension then you will certainly enjoy my blog and newsletter. Just go to Steven Bradford long.com There's a link in the show notes. Enter your email and you will get me in your inbox. It'll be like a you know horror slasher movie where I just keep reappearing in your life. Whether you want me or not. All right. With all of that out of the way, I am delighted to welcome my old friend Gareth Higgins to the show. How are you? not that old? Not that Oh, well. We've known each other since like 2014 Oh, I get it. I get the joke now. Okay.
Gareth Higgins 02:07 Older is the old oldest. No, I shouldn't old is not a pejorative Absolutely. People who fall into themselves sinking themselves and become wise sages with age. So
Stephen Bradford Long 02:18 yes. And you're definitely yeah, when you have one of those. You're not old either.
Gareth Higgins 02:23 You're 20 these days. That's like that's like an Elon,
Stephen Bradford Long 02:26 that is an eon ago. That's almost a decade ago. We've almost known each other for a decade. By the way. You have been described to me as a hot ginger teddy bear by someone Mercy who will who will not be named the you
Gareth Higgins 02:41 know, here's the thing. I welcome. I welcome all affirmation wherever it comes from. I think I think the beard color that I sport, I think would be the verb is actually Auburn rather than ginger. But cultural differences lead to people ascribing different different names. Uh huh. So I'll take the I'll take the ginger.
Stephen Bradford Long 03:08 Very good. Excellent. All right. So tell us some about who you are and what you do.
Gareth Higgins 03:11 I'm a hot Irish, ginger or Auburn, teddy bear.
Stephen Bradford Long 03:18 Which is all true. Yes.
Gareth Higgins 03:20 i Well, thanks for having me on. Again, I've been on with with you once before,
Stephen Bradford Long 03:26 you are one of our Yeley first guests.
Gareth Higgins 03:28 Yeah, I really value what you do on this show, I value your writing, I was reading my friend, it's hard to believe I was reading archive posts on your blog just a couple of weeks ago. You have a really, really wonderful post about how to have a healthy relationship with social media, and then another piece of Satanism and, and not being an ironic, Satanist. And I think your writing is wonderful. And really, thank you. Appreciate what you're doing and what you're trying to do. So I'm from Ireland. I live in North Carolina, much of the time I have been the beneficiary, the recipient of many mentors who have shared their wisdom and their lives with me and encouraged me and affirmed me and I guess, the way people often lead a response to tell us about yourself or who you are, what do we talk about our work? I don't really like to do that. Because I feel like it's all sort of mixed in together, Mike. My passions are about storytelling, and how to tell a story about who we are as humans, this moment in history, what we're here for on how to be and there's nothing original here. It's just listening to wiser people and then finding a maybe a different way to talk about it. And so the stories that I enjoy the most are the ones that come through cinema. which I've been obsessed with since I was a child. Because my parents introduced me to great movies when I was younger. And I'm involved in community work in the form of retreat gatherings where we bring small groups of people together to reflect on our own stories and how we can be of better service in the world and also discern our own needs. There's, there's, I think there's a problem that faces a lot of us in our culture, which is, you either become an individualistic individual who lives in competition with everybody else for the rest of your life. And because of a fear of scarcity, or an actual lived experience of scarcity, there's not much time or space leftover to imagine what you could do in service for others. Or you, you serve the world into your own martyrdom. So you just give and give and give and give and give. But you never discern your own needs or ask for help. I'm definitely not that kind of person. I'm, I'm asking for help all the time. I'm fortunate in that people taught me to ask for help. So we do these retreats, and we do small festivals. And I'm involved in what you might call transformative men's work, which is trying to help men and people who identify as male, to find the deeper levels of our own maturity, our own ancient wisdom and to heal from some of the wounds that particularly affect men in our culture that gets summarized and oversimplified as toxic masculinity involved in some work that tries to help transform that in me, and in other people, too. And I love having conversations. I love writing, I love walking by the water. And probably the thing that I love the most and love the most about my life is friendship, and being in encounters with people, even if I'm only friends with them for five minutes. Someone at the checkout someone I only meet once, that's how I met you at a checkout. And you were so welcoming, or people that I've been with and are and have been with me for decades and more friendship and encounter with other human beings is just the best thing. It's the best thing.
Stephen Bradford Long 07:12 I love that. I love that self introduction as a description of who you are and what you do. And so you brought up men, we might need to do another show about that. Because I'm trying to find people who that is not the topic of today's show, maybe we'll get into it. But I'm, I'm really interested in the state of men as a man, but also, as someone who works with a lot of men who interacts with a lot of men and trying to find people to discuss the challenges that men are experiencing without descending into weird, gross Red Pill stuff, right? And so we might, we might need to do a follow up conversation. Because the number of men who I meet who tell me that they just don't have friends, where that is just a fact of their life is staggering to me. So, you know, at work, I will train a lot of guys, and we'll start talking and one of the things that usually comes out during those conversations is oh, I don't have any friends. You know, I play video games. I I don't have any meaningful connection whatsoever with other people except maybe my girlfriend. So yeah, there's there's something wrong. There's there's something going very wrong with men.
Gareth Higgins 08:36 Yeah, yeah. And I know that, you know, if, of course, I'd be glad to come back and have another conversation about this. And there's other people who talk about it much better than I can. Let me just say two very brief things, if I'm if I may want. One is that it's it's pretty clear. It seems pretty clear that the friendless SNESs of men of many men, is one of the reasons why some communities are having a lot of success and attracting men that then end up not necessarily having the best impact on the world. Oh, yeah. No, that Absolutely. Because if a if a community will gather around you and meet your needs for connection, then it's almost secondary. What that community
Stephen Bradford Long 09:26 stands for are simple creatures. We need to be read. Yeah. And
Gareth Higgins 09:30 if nobody else is reaching out to you, that's so so that's that's one piece. The other piece is that it's connected to that is if the bar for entry to a common good oriented community or a more a community that respects the dignity and interdependence of all of all living beings, something like you and that's a very highfalutin phrase, but if the bar for entry is ideological purity, or you need to know that you think all the right things before you're allowed into the community. That's a problem too. And I think some of us who come from the more, we can use the word progressive world, and that's not a perfect term, one of the things we really need to examine at the moment is, are we making it too difficult for people to join our communities, because they haven't fully grasped some of the ideological shifts, or even some of the terminology or thinking the quote unquote, right thing to be allowed in. Before you get cancelled, there are a lot of people out there who want to do good and want to care for people and their people have compassion and respect. But they haven't been exposed to some of the ideas that some of our generation sort of takes for granted. So that's, that's one piece is if we got to make the bar for entry simpler. And then the other piece is, in working with men, particularly, if you're trying to do transformative work with men. And you don't have a connection with wise elders, and you don't have a connection with, let's just call it a higher power, that to use the language of recovery, whatever that means to a source of power beyond yourself. And if the outcome does not lead to those men, treating people of all genders better than it's seriously deficient at best. Yeah, absolutely. And there is transformative work out there that does help men treat everybody better, including themselves.
Stephen Bradford Long 11:33 God, I would love to talk more about that. And you're hitting on on all of my wheel houses in those two points that you just made. But so so let's move on to your book, though, you, you wrote, I read some of it over the past couple of days, I have never read your writing. We've spoken a lot. But I don't think I've ever read your writing. And you're just such a gorgeous writer, you your prose is really beautiful. You have a new book called How not to be afraid. And let's start with Northern Ireland, growing up in Northern Ireland, and how that shaped the message that you're trying to convey in this book.
Gareth Higgins 12:14 Yeah, well, you know, right now I'm looking out the window at the exact view, well, not the exact way I'm looking at this, I'm looking in the same direction that the view from my childhood home had and a bit closer. Don't I'm further down the hill from the house I grew up in, but currently in an apartment that's very close to where I grew up, and I'm looking out over Belfast lock, which is where it's famous for being where the Titanic left, on our way to Southampton, before she was officially launched. And so one thing to say is like, I can't imagine my life without being so close to water, and coastal water in particular. And so, you know, it would be easy, in some, some respects, obvious to me to talk about Northern Ireland, and the political conflict and the political peacebuilding process here as being the most important aspect of my childhood and my formation, and it may well be, but it's also very important that I grew up on the coast, because growing up on the coast, and growing up on an island, I think has at least two impacts or had on me, one was, the Coast meant it was easy to imagine a vision of something bigger, what's out there, what's what's over the other side. And being on an island meant, it was easy to feel like you could be effective in your activism, because you're dealing with a very small place. That may sound paradoxical given that we were living through a civil conflict that took the lives of so many people physically injured, so many more people and seemed like, you know, it was it was this, this, this cut right through the center of our society, and everybody experienced the suffering. But from before I was even born, I was born 1975, before I was even born, there were people involved in peace and reconciliation work here, in this place, this place that is legally called Northern Ireland. But the people who live here and who care about this place, disagree about what it should be called. Some people call it the north of Ireland, I call it Northern Ireland with a small n, I spell it with a small n as a way of saying, we need to come up with language that can either try to meet everybody's needs or not pick one side or the other. I want to be on the side of the Reconciler. I want to be on the side of the healer is on the side of the nonviolent and there are people on whose shoulders my generation stands who, when the violence was at its height, were risking their lives, to speak with the people who were supporting the use of violence and also seeking to make a more just society. So that the reasons some people felt they had for using violence would be be addressed. And then nobody would feel like they had any reasons to use violence. So I'm definitely shaped by growing up in a society to have this awfulness happen in it. And, and very painful things happen to my family and to people close to me. And the ceasefires that paved the way for the official peace process took place when I was 19 years old. So my entire childhood, there was active civil conflict, living here and being born into it, it was sorted. At one level, it was normal unless it actually directly affected a loved one. And like I say, it did directly affect my family. And some people I care about suffered. It sanitizes it to say bereavement, family members of people that I know, well were killed, they were murdered. And and some of those peoples are people who to put them on a pedestal would actually be to disrespect them, because they don't want to be more than human. They don't want to be known for what they suffered. But I have this deep respect for people who did experience such a terror, because many of them stayed here and got involved in trying to make this place better, even in the face of such terrible loss. So I'd say growing up in a place that was small enough that you could see change happening, and you could participate in it growing up by water. And I think there is a kind of like a poetic thing about water, maybe even a spiritual thing. But being near water, I still feel even when I'm in Asheville, I like to go and be by lakes. They're not the same as being on the coast. But I like being by lakes and rivers. And I think humans generally probably just like to be by water, and then to be around this terrible thing, this big dramatic thing. And then to see it change, to see it change, and to be invited in a very small way to be. Alongside that change. As a lot of people, my generation were to be involved in peacebuilding is, I mean, I could say it's a gift, I could say it's a burden, I could say it's a mixed blessing, I could just say it is what it is, it is what it is. And your story is just as interesting. That's maybe the last thing is that it can be too easy for people from where I'm from, to pump up our own stories, or to see our own stories as being more valid than other people. And that's something I'm really keen to work with. Particularly lately, I've been thinking a lot about how do you tell stories in a compelling way, that that can speak deeply to people, but doesn't make you the subject of the story or the center of the story that actually helps people see themselves as being just anything magical that they feel about the story is already inside them. And they are just as valuable as anything valuable in the story.
Stephen Bradford Long 17:54 So it sounds like part of your work is helping peep and this includes men, this includes all people that you work with is helping them tell a story about their own lives, maybe that can instill hope for them and can instill kind of a greater sense of, of, or well being or healing. How do you tell us? How do you tell a story of your life and of the world in such a way that it creates for lack of a better term progress? Am I right about that? Is that the vibe that I'm getting?
Gareth Higgins 18:32 Yeah, I mean, it's bigger than you said, for lack of a better word, progress. There's a bigger word, I don't quite know what it is. It might be life might be like, maybe it's life. Maybe it's maybe it's love. But I think you know what it seems to be there's building blocks here. One is, human beings are storytellers. We create meaning through the stories we tell and our experience of reality always has, even if it's just as a thin film of interpretation. Our experience is always mediated through a story we're telling about it. Like, what does it mean that this thing is happening to me? So reality is never just reality? It's it's the way we experience it is the story we tell? Yes. I think those two statements are pretty clearly objectively true statements. Human beings are storytellers. And our experience of reality is the story we tell about it. Not Not it's not. It's not objectively the reality itself. I think the third thing is most of us don't know this. The fourth thing is most of us are living unconsciously stories that other people told us.
Stephen Bradford Long 19:39 Yeah, they're zombie stories. They're just they're just walking. They aren't there. They're there. If they're unconscious, they're they're just shambling along they're unconscious there zombie stories.
Gareth Higgins 19:49 Yeah. Unless you wake up from it. I'm not I don't want to condescend to people because this was this is I think this is just our culture. All of us are born into stories that other people tell that if you have really conscious storytellers in your life, family members, teachers, whatever it may be somebody told you that, or maybe something arose inside you, which, you know, might be a spiritual thing might be you were in the right place at the right time, then maybe you woke up out of this earlier, but most of us don't wake up. Most of us don't.
Stephen Bradford Long 20:23 And that's just human nature that that isn't Yeah, that I don't even know if that's specific to our culture. That's just the way human beings are. That's our default. Right?
Gareth Higgins 20:32 I think it's our default. I do think it's our default in this culture. I don't know enough about other cultures to speak to that. And I don't know. Therefore, I don't know if it's human nature, human culture. I do feel like it's pretty observable. Most people in our shared culture, which is cultural, it used to be called the West, right? Most people seem to be unconscious of the story they're telling or the fact that they are a storyteller, and that it takes some kind of intervention or initiatory process to wake us up out of this. There are some lovely examples in in fictional storyteller, one of one of my favorite is, in Field of Dreams. There's a moment where Kevin Costner, his brother in law play by Timothy Busfield, who's a banker, who cannot see the ghostly baseball players who have come to practice. And Kevin Costner and Amy Madigan's farm, he just can't see them. They're standing there, the audience can see them, everybody else can see them, but he can't. And then a crisis happens that he causes where he he initiates a series of events that nearly leads to the death of his of his niece. And then she gets fixed and everything's fine. And that kind of shock trauma crisis after he is sure that the girls okay. He's in this kind of this, the reverberation of the shock is happening. And he's looking around. And he says, When did all these ballplayers get here? Right? Yeah. And I think that's a beautiful picture of intervention initiation, that something needs to happen to us. And it doesn't have to be a tragic shock. But it often is, it often is a death or the end of a relationship or a sense of failure in something that creates the space in which we can reimagine the story and maybe see things that were not there before. Now, I'm not an expert on this. I didn't realize that the reason Jiminy Cricket is called Jiminy Cricket, is that he's a cricket until last night, so don't be don't be thinking that I'm an expert. I often don't I was watching the new Pinocchio was like, Oh, he's a cricket column Jiminy Cricket. I've never understood that
Stephen Bradford Long 22:48 you're not claiming to be a Jordan Peterson who had come up with weird in depth narrative archetypes of for crickets and in Gemini and Belize of the
Gareth Higgins 23:03 Jiminy Cricket does represent something archetypal. Of course, of course, there's sonification of conscience, but
Stephen Bradford Long 23:08 basically you're you're you're you're going you're you're like the jinn the gay, ginger, Irish teddy bear, Jordan Peterson, who is who isn't also a weird creep. Oh, God
Gareth Higgins 23:24 bless, everybody. And let's, let's let's leave Jordan Peterson out a bit.
Stephen Bradford Long 23:31 I can't I can't I can't leave Jordan Peterson out of anything, because I'm so you're certainly fascinated with them. It's a morbid fascination. I cannot look away.
Gareth Higgins 23:40 Because I'll say this, it No, go ahead. Well, no, just just
Stephen Bradford Long 23:44 because he represents I mean, speaking of stories, speaking, speaking of stories, he is telling a story that is capturing people's imagination in what would previously be called the West, especially among men. And I am fascinated by what that story is, and why him why Jordan Peterson and there's there's a as is so often the case with with kind of far right conservative thinkers. So I read a lot of books by conservatives and I listened to a lot of podcasts. And as always, there's always an element there, where I'm like, there's real value there. But I wish someone else had written this. Right. And so I wish, I wish someone else had written 1212 rules for life. There's something valuable there. But it's almost like a shadow of what it could could have been. Well,
Gareth Higgins 24:42 and all I would say to in response to that is, I wish I could be in conversation with him. Me too. Like I wish I could be in conversation with anybody who I think is making an honest attempt to mean to me I think he's making an honest attempt from within his world to The same meaningful things. And sometimes
Stephen Bradford Long 25:02 he does. Yeah, exactly. Sometimes growing up very profound. Yeah.
Gareth Higgins 25:06 So growing up in this part of the world, it's it's quite easy for me to resonate with what you just said about I wish someone else had written it because sometimes people who, whose politics were implacably opposed to mine on who might even want to implement decisions that would hurt me. They also said things that were true. And they may have been the only people who were saying those things. And that's one of the things I mean, about we got to make the bar lower entry to the community of the common good.
Stephen Bradford Long 25:35 So so we were you were talking about that, just before we started recording? Could you could you kind of explain what you mean by that, we need to lower the bar of entry.
Gareth Higgins 25:45 So if if we tell people you can't join our movement, because you haven't read the right, academic treat is on this particular issue? Or you have you are you don't know the quote unquote, right terminology. Or you're, you're you're you're brave enough to say out loud, I haven't figured out what I think about these questions yet. Yeah, I'd like to learn more. If we, if we tell people that, then we're going to be at the very least ineffective movements, we're going to shrink the number of people who can who can be involved. We, I think we have to be there have to be certain kinds of common values or virtues, to me Do no harm would be that that's, that's maybe the only one actually that we need to all agree upon. Do no harm. Now, of course, people will then define what harm means. And I'm, I'm only in a position to define it for myself, and I want to listen to you and I want to listen to other people and ensure that the table is, is is. I was gonna say broad enough. But I don't know that I want a broad table, the table is inclusive enough and consciously engaged with people who represent those whose voices have not been heard at the center. Of course, having said that, it tends not to be the people representing historically marginalized groups who are the most ideologically purist. Yeah, I think it tends to be. My sense is that it's kind of white middle class cisgender. People like me, who I suspect are trying sincerely, to do something good, but it's motivated by guilt. And, and it's motivated by fear to some degree compassions in there as well. Really, what I'm saying is, we need to be less perfectionist. And we need to be less perfectionist in the way we talk and listen with each other. And to go back to Jordan Peterson, if he were here, I'd want to engage him in conversation, I'd want to say, hey, tell me more about this. I'd want to say to him, you know, when people call you a far right conservative, what's your response? Because I know that he does not hold all the political positions that and traditional far right conservatives would hold. I also somebody says at least 20 years ago, that's, that's far more important to me than what I think about Jordan Peterson, or any one individual thinker or a teacher. And that is don't ever say that you know what somebody's motivation is unless they've told you what their motivation is, and even then, be skeptical, because they might not have told you the truth. Or they might, they might have told you the best they can. And they're not even fully aware of it. And this was in the context of me. I was writing a piece at the time, I was a sociology grad student writing about people who believe that the Pope is the Antichrist. And I, the there was a professor who challenged me because I was using this phrase frequently in the piece, saying that people who have this belief, use this belief to reinforce their politics. That was the phrase I said, they use this religious belief to reinforce their political prejudice. And the professor said to me, how do you know that they use it? And I and I stumbled? And he said, did any of them tell you that they use it? And I said, No, none of them told me that they use it. He said, is it not possible that they actually just believe it? That they're not using it? It happened? It coincides Yes. And they the two beliefs, the political belief, and religiously feed off each other. But there's nobody Machiavellian sitting in an underground chamber with a blueprint rubbing their hands together and saying, I'm going to take my religious belief, which I don't really believe, and I'm going to use it to bolster my religious bigotry, which I think will achieve things for me in the long run. He said the simpler and the more accurate interpretation is these folks just genuinely believe that. Now then you get into why do they believe that? And why have they not been exposed to other ideas and what happens when you do expose people to other ideas and how quickly those beliefs erode and get replaced with something else. I want communities to agree to do no harm to each other and to the members of the communities and to have some broad agreement about what doing no harm with me and I want to not in impute motive to people, without them telling me what their motive is. And even when they tell me what their motive is, I want to be skeptical. Or at least curious about
Stephen Bradford Long 30:08 that. And I also want to, you know, just clarify to everyone listening, even if sometimes I'm critical of Jordan Peterson, I also know a lot of people whose lives have been by my eyes changed for the better by, by him. And if you are one of those people, I'm not going to, I don't want to take that away from you, you know, I celebrate the fact that he that that, you know, if you had an addiction, or if you were in a dark place in life, and he was one of the people who got you out of that, that's great. And I'm happy for you. And I'm glad that he was, I'm glad that he was there in your life at the right time to help you do that. So in, you know, he's a complex figure, and people are complex, and that I feel like that's one of the other implicit messages that you're getting at is, are we telling a story in which people can be complicated? In which someone, you know, are we telling a story in which someone can be can can have complex motives that maybe we don't know, someone can, can someone can be someone can can be motivated, or someone can be doing the best they they know how to do with what they have been given? And still do a certain amount of harm, despite the Sure.
Gareth Higgins 31:27 Like me, like me,
Stephen Bradford Long 31:28 exactly. Well, well, also, like, I don't know, I think sometimes people sometimes I think people sometimes have a hard time understanding. And by people, I mean, some people online, you know, so a few people on Twitter, a small handful of them, I think, sometimes have a hard time understanding why I have so much time for people who just have, I think terrible beliefs, who have terrible beliefs about trans people about gay people, about me, as a gay person, about people of different faiths. And I actually have a lot of time for for those people. And I have a lot of time for them, because I was once one of them. And the reason why I'm no longer one of them, is because people had time for me, they would hear me out, they would, they would talk to me. And their barrier for entry, or their their bar for entry was really low. It was low enough for someone like me, who had pretty toxic beliefs, to enter their space and communicate. And not everyone should do that. Depending, you know, if you're, if you're trans, maybe don't talk to transphobes, that's great, protect yourself, I also can't deny the fact that I am who I am. And I am, where I am now. Because other people were generous, and compassionate, and kind and saw my humanity and chose to help me work through my stories. And that's why I am where I am.
Gareth Higgins 33:13 The it's funny, I don't want to lose the thought of this. I would love to see Jordan Peterson be in dialogue. And I mean, genuine dialogue, curiosity, asking questions and listening with Adrian Marie Brown, who, if if you know people, some people listening will know who Adrian Marie Brown is, and someone who represents a world of difference. But compassion, passion, courage, humor, and curiosity. And that's the piece curiosity. I think you're absolutely right. Like, there's no part of what's happened in the last 20 years with social media and an online connection is that we're starting because we have the capacity to be in conversation with anyone. There's sort of this assumption that we should be or that the default is we should be and that you're bad if you don't, and then how do you decide like, before, before email came along? I couldn't talk to people all the time. Yeah. And people didn't have my phone number
Stephen Bradford Long 34:16 you couldn't break in as a physics, right?
Gareth Higgins 34:18 Yeah, yeah. So no, like, if it's dangerous, don't, you know, make your own decisions about what you are called to what you're called to step into. Seek allies who will speak instead of you in places that might be risky, even, you know, whether it's risk to your emotional health or certain physical risk, most of the time, it's not. Okay. Most of the time. It's about discomfort and peace building here in Northern Ireland. Most of the peace building that has been done has been between people who were politically different, but they didn't pose each other a threat. There were people and it was the smallest number of people who went consciously to talk with people who might be posing a physical threat, it's always gonna be the smallest number that do that. It only needs to be the smallest number of people that do that. Because the people that pose the direct physical threat are also the smallest number of people in those political movements. Yeah. So. And yes, there is a noble and effective history in nonviolent movements, where people did form human chains to prevent someone getting down the street, who who did someone harm, or, you know, lived, lived, the Underground Railroad, or, of course, all adds up. But it's always the smaller number of people that are involved in that work. That does not mean that the rest of us lack courage or aren't our don't care, it just, it just means you discern what you're called to do. One of my favorite people here, in this place in the north of Ireland, someone I only met on a handful of occasions. I wish I had known him more. Father, Jerry Reynolds, a Redemptorist, Catholic priest, with a beautiful, soft, gentle voice that I like to say, he could talk to you about the about the chemical reactions that go on in the mixing of cement, and it would still, it would still heal your inner child, just listen to him talk to you about that. Right, right. And he was deeply involved in peacebuilding. And because peace is a nice gentle word, it sometimes masks the hardest parts of it, you know, it meant danger at the brutality. Yeah. And yeah, and I think and it meant exhaustion. And it just meant a lot of time being given to this. And Father, Jerry died a few years ago, we live to be a brave old age. And I was talking with someone who knew him very, very well. The other week, a guy called Edie from New Jersey, who lives here in Belfast, and is and is involved in carrying on peace work. A lot of people from the US have come to live in Ireland and have been, have made beautiful contributions here. And was saying to me that father, Jerry spoke about himself as having an L plate on his chest. Now an L plate is what in the UK, a learning driver puts in the back window. On the front window of the car, when they're learning to drive. L stands for learner. And it shows the other drivers on the road that this is someone who doesn't know how to drive yet. We're all learning. We're all there. We're all learners. And this man mean, Father, Jerry was awarded one of the most prestigious piece awards on the planet. And he still said, I have an L plate, I have an L plate on my chest. And that's, that's what I want. That's what I want. That's actually to me, that could be a foundational story along with do no harm. Recognize we all have an L plate in something than to extend the metaphor. After you get your driving test here in the the part of Ireland that is legally called the United Kingdom, the L plate comes down, but you don't put up an E plate for expert, you put up an R plate for I think it stands for restricted. And that means for the first year, after you've got your driving test, there are limits to where you can drive and how fast you can drive. So you have like a year on probation. It's, as it were, you know, you're easing in. So we all have an L plate for something, we all have an our plate for something. And then each of us has one or two things. That's the thing. We know the thing we know, unusually, it's something that came through hard experience. And if we truly know it, it'll just be what people pick up on by being around us. But we'll also share it with humility. You know, we'll also say, Well, if you ever want to talk about that, I'd be glad to chat with you about those things. We don't need to put out a press release every time we've discovered something. I mean, sometimes we need to intervene and stop someone putting their hand in a fire. If they don't know the fire is going to burn them. But for the most part knowledge and and the telling of stories can be transmitted slowly over time. And the story that we have, that our culture is burdened with at the moment, is a fearful one. It's one that says we're in the midst of apocalypse. And we define apocalypse is catastrophe. But as you well know from your deep study of, of ancient Greek Apocalypse does not actually mean catastrophe. It means Revelation. Yeah, it means unveiling and so it isn't apocalyptic moment. I think it's a moment where more is being unveiled about who humans are and what were for. But I don't think we're living in a moment of catastrophe. You know, everyone could be having any anyone listening to this show might actually be having a catastrophic moment in your life right now. If, and if we were with you, we would seek to care for you and protect you and bind your wounds and be with you through that pain. But what our world our culture is going through at the moment is revelatory of who we really are. And what the possibilities are. There's a lot of mass, there's a lot of pain, there's a lot of shadow, there's a lot of rage. And there's a lot of connection. And there's a lot of fertility, and there's a lot of growth, and there is a lot of love. And there is a lot of healthy grief work going on. And there are a lot of people of privilege waking up to not only our responsibility to serve the common good, but that our lives will be better, the more we can become less selfish. That actually, the path of becoming less selfish is joyful for the person who's doing it again, I only I barely have an L plate and becoming less selfish. I'm not even sure I've been given the L plate yet I, I would like to learn to be less selfish. I do know from being around people who are like that, and from tasting a little bit of what that's like, there's more joy. On the other side of transcending individualism, there is more joy, on the other side of giving up, needing to possess everything for yourself,
Stephen Bradford Long 41:17 you know, this is all reminding me of something that you said to me years ago, that has like, stuck with me ever since. And I've thought about a lot. And it had to do with privilege. And this was just something that you said in passing at the store. You know, we we have like a bunch of little conversations at the store over the years that like add up to big conversations. And I forget the context of this conversation, but we were talking about the concept of privilege, and how hard it is for some people to to grasp. And some people really struggle with the word privilege and what that means, especially if say, they come from a lower class background. And there's a lot of anger around that phrase, because of connotations that they that that that it can be imbued with for some people, right? And you said, Well, it's really simple. Everyone has an area where they have power, and everyone has an area in their life where they have some weakness. And when you identify those things, now, you know how you are meant to serve others. And it is that simple. I don't know if that's exactly the wording you use. But that was the basic idea. And that, and I thought that that was just such a helpful way of articulating this emotionally fraught topic of privilege. And it's it's such a helpful way of of cutting through all of that anxiety and all of that angst, and and getting to the heart of what I think privilege is the word the concept privileges, is trying to get out. Does that make sense? Am I is that? Is that making sense?
Gareth Higgins 43:24 Yeah, I mean, so my friend David Lamott, musician, he's a great guy. Yeah, he's Yeah, bring, bring what you have and ask for what you need. Exactly. Like, that's the way he puts it. And there's no one who doesn't have something and there's no one who doesn't lack something. And clearly, there are some people who have a lot more power Absolutely, than others. And, and it even comes down to the mean, some of us are challenged in the area of power over our own our own bodies, power over our own thoughts. And then there's people who have the power to launch missiles, and on who sometimes do it. And so privilege has kind of become a buzzword, and maybe a bit of jargon. That may not be helpful. I'd rather talk in terms of power and resources.
Stephen Bradford Long 44:17 Yeah, no, I I agree with that. I think what I'm hearing and all of this, it really sounds like the poetic incarnation of CBT cognitive behavioral therapy and but but much less you know, there's there's kind of a sterility and, and coldness to CBT, which actually, you know, for the best therapists I've ever had have been CBT therapists who were very, like, cut and dry, they would talk to me for five minutes or 10 minutes and they would be like, Okay, here's this cognitive distortion. You're going to work on this for next week. Here's how you're going to work on it by so you see you next week, that it was just like, very cool. Old, very to the point very much like, you know, a a gym coach being like, you're going to do this thing for the next week, we'll see you next time, bye. But that was the best, it was the best therapy that I ever got. And what it revealed to me was just how much my thoughts were shaping. Were my perception of RIA, there is no, there is no difference between our thoughts and our perception of reality, they're one in the same thing. And helping me become aware of in terms of CBT, my cognitive distortions, the the things that I believe that are that are distortions of what's true, or are perhaps telling me a story that isn't helpful to me. And what you're describing is a much more kind of spiritual kind of CBT, for lack of a better term. Does that make sense? That'd be kind of a poetic CBT.
Gareth Higgins 46:07 Sure. And it's not about to me it's not about reframing a story in a direction. That's just better. Because it feels better. I think it's better because it's true. It's true. I do think that there's, there's like, there's wisdom, and the truth shall set you free. Now, we'll never know what the full truth is, but we can get closer to it. And that's why we need our plates. Right? To be curious, is this really true? Has this really happened is where am I in relation to the story, maybe the best part of it, I'll give you an example. I had an experience a few years ago, where I was going to have a drink with a friend. And they got to the pub before me. And they texted me to say that someone else was in the pub, who they thought I might feel awkward being around someone I'd known a long time ago. And just someone you know, the way sometimes you bump into people that you went to high school with, it's like, Oh, I really don't want to see them right now. Hopefully, we've all had experiences where you bump into them, and you realize they were thinking the same thing. And then you have a really nice conversation.
Stephen Bradford Long 47:04 I, by the way, that is that is my life as a grocery store manager in this small town where I grew up. Yeah, literally come in, right. Yes, people come in. Really bad grinder. hookup just walks in. That really, or you know that that friend from high school who said terrible things to you, or vice versa, walks in, and suddenly you have to somehow deal with that.
Gareth Higgins 47:29 And sometimes they apologize. Yes. And sometimes they say they say it's really nice to see you and they connect with you. And you're like, wow, I didn't connect with this person 30 years ago, but we have a nice connection. Now. And so my friend texted me to say so and so is there. And I immediately felt like the walls were closing it. I just felt triggered. I guess I'm this person hadn't really done anything. They've just not been particularly warm to me. And I and I just was feeling vulnerable. So the story I could tell about that was I felt terrible because this person was going to be in the pub. That could be the story. Or I could tell the story. Wow. The friend who I was meeting cared enough about me to notice, oh, Gareth, might feel awkward if he sees this person in the pub. And so he texted me to say, Would you like to go to a different pub instead? Now which story is true, and which story is better? It's it's the more comprehensive one, which is like the headline is not person who was once not very nice to me in 1992 is in a pub. I can't go into the pub, then. I could tell the story that way. But the truer story is another person cares enough about me to tell me to notice. And that if I in the moment I didn't think about it that way but in the moment if I could have let his love in his name is Simon if I could let Simon's love for me really permeate me. It would have been enough for me to go to that pub go up to the guy that I'd gone to school with and say hi. Remember, we went to school together? And you know to just ally myself field. So feel that love? No. People will often when you talk about poetic CBT one of the you know the thing that hasn't really evolved yet in the in let's call it in the in the world of medicine people and I consider the vet, you know, therapists to be medicine people and I've benefited greatly from therapists who I think truly were medicine people, sacred medicine people. And they were doing things like CBT and sensorimotor psychotherapy with me we were doing that together. But the thing that hasn't really evolved there yet, is to knit together the individual story transformation with the structural realities of our lives because It's one thing to work on the story of recovery from abusive experiences, it's another to go back into the house where those abusive experiences are still happening. It's one thing to work on the fear you might have about what might happen politically. And it's another thing to go back into the society where you can't control other people's behavior. And I haven't quite seen enough of a knitting together of how individual healing work, I guess you could, you could use an even more conventional example, if you have problems with your lungs because of air quality. And you and you take medicine, maybe you have surgery, because your lungs have been damaged. But you're still living in an environment where the air quality is poor. Yep, that's not your fault. And it's also not something that you can totally transform by yourself. Yeah,
Stephen Bradford Long 50:57 there's a ceiling. Why other words,
Gareth Higgins 50:59 there is a ceiling, but I don't think there's this, I don't think the ceiling applies to the human soul. Right? I think the soul or the spirit, or the person can actually transform all of this. And I and I, it's not so much from my own experience. And I think that it's because people who suffered, incomparably worse than whatever suffering has been in my life, have written about how they transformed that suffering. And some of them even later died as a result of the suffering. I'm thinking about people. Like Deitrich Bonhoeffer, and I'm thinking about people like Eddie hilason, murdered in the Holocaust and who's writing is is is, is mystical contemplation filled with love and courage. And they still killed her. Right? And I don't, I'm not concerned blase. I don't mean that that way, I think about Nelson Mandela, you know, coming out of prisons and refusing to hate the people who deserved his, at least deserve to be held accountable for what they have done by, you know, maliciously imprisoning him, nevermind the apartheid regime in general. So that I don't think the ceiling applies to the to the potential of human individual experience, I think there are people who have had transformational experiences that are not spiritual bypassing, they're not denying the reality of the suffering. They're just living a bigger story. And the bigger story might well be I woke up this morning, on a spinning bowl of blue, hanging out there in the universe, surrounded by stars on the sun, in which I am literally made from the star dust from stars that died a long, long time ago. And I get to talk to another embodiment of Stardust and imagine what a more loving world could look like. Like, there are days when that is more than enough for me where the ceiling comes in. And I, I love I love you calling it a ceiling, I'm actually seeing a picture of like a box or just a room, like a room on a sitcom, where you're looking into the room or maybe even looking like the here, it's a doll house, there's no front on it. We're looking into it. And we're going to how could we raise the ceiling? How could we why there shouldn't be a door there or there needs to be a wall there. And that's why we do this storytelling community. And that's why some communities that don't do very healthy things are full of people, because people need to be in community, and they will go to the community that invites them. So we do this thing called porch circles, where we gather in groups of between three to eight people, you need three people to make it a community. Eight is about the eight is kind of the ceiling on the number of people who can have a meaningful conversation, and one go, but there's no no rules. We're not going to, you're not going to get in trouble if you bring 11 people. And we we just asked four questions. The first two questions are about stuff that's going on on the inside. The first one is, what's something that's life giving to you since we last met? Just one thing. And the second question is, what's something that's not life giving or draining you or challenging you since we last met? Just one thing? Those two questions elicit far richer and more meaningful answers than how're you doing? Right. The third question, what's the new story that you feel called to live between now and when we next meet, give one concrete example. So you know, we all want to change the world. We all want to bring peace on earth, or some of us just want to be left alone. Right? Or some of us feel that the best way that we could bring peace on earth would be to be left alone. This question is a bit deeper than that. Give one concrete example of the new story you want to live. I always it's funny, Steven, I think this may have been come from you years and years ago, one of the examples I give when I'm telling people about this storytelling method is I want to when I'm next in a grocery store, have eye contact with the person serving me at the checkout, say hello and smile app. So that's what I want. That's what I want to do. And that, of course, it's like a, you know, it's like dominoes. It leads to you doing other things, and I want to open myself to the person serving me might want to have eye contact with me to they have a story that could, that could be a gift to Me, too. So that's the third question. And then the last one. And this is where we get into raising the ceiling and opening the doors or maybe knocking down the walls that need to be knocked done, what's the help that you need? And what's the help that you can offer. And yet, there are massive global and geopolitical and national issues that none of us are quite sure how we can help. But there are also most of the stuff that's faced facing most of us on a day to day basis, could be helped by a group of, of three people, or eight people saying, you can't pay your rent, we're going to help you pay your rent, you need a babysitter, and you can't afford a babysitter so that you can get out for an evening of enjoyment by yourself or with your partner, we're going to pay for the babysitter, or we'll provide the babysitting, you are having an existential crisis, and you need someone to go for a walk with you every Saturday for the rest of your life. Just to help you walk through that, well, maybe we'll do the next two Saturdays, and we'll we'll see where we're at after two Saturday. This is the way people have always done it. Our Western industrial culture makes it at one level easier for us to connect with each other and to have these conversations. But it doesn't encourage us to do so. And somebody always has to go first. And that's all it takes. Somebody went before me. I learned from them. I'm with other people, we were in these kinds of conversations all the time. There's no ceiling to the potential transformation of the of the soul. And where there is a ceiling in people's experience of reality. Even though that experience is a story. You'd want to help from a place of compassion, because a story about compassion would be a better story to live the mystery of its selfishness.
Stephen Bradford Long 57:27 I think that's a great note to end on. As always, every time we talk, I feel like that we can go for many more hours. But this has been great. And you're welcome back anytime. I would love to do this again. Hopefully, not in you know, six years. Or let's see. No, I yeah, I think it's been. So we I think we did our first show together. In 2017. Really? 1819. Wow, wow. So five year, five years. So you're welcome back? And definitely, before five years has passed?
Gareth Higgins 57:58 Oh, yeah. Well, every time we talk, I always feel and I really mean this, that you're one of the best things about western North Carolina. Oh, that. You bring such you bring such a gift. And you helped me calibrate and recalibrate my thoughts. So you too, for sure. Get it Get a t shirt designed for your podcast that has an L plate on it. I will your body and your own body and then modeling that curiosity, which is just what the world needs. Well, thank you. I appreciate the world also needs to buy my book right? This is when your world
Stephen Bradford Long 58:35 definitely needs to buy your book. It's called How not to be afraid. Everyone should go read it. It has a gorgeous like turquoise green cover. And people should go buy it online. And yeah, I'll put a link to that in the show notes. If you could send me the link to the best place to buy your book
Gareth Higgins 58:52 is go to how not to be afraid.com and it has links on it. Perfect.
Stephen Bradford Long 58:56 I will post that in the show notes. Yeah, and I would love to do this again. I would love to have you if you're up for it. I would love to have you be a returning guest
Gareth Higgins 59:06 No thank you. Appreciate it. Glad to glad to
Stephen Bradford Long 59:09 awesome All right. Well, that is it for this show. The music is by eleventy seven the theme song is wild. You can find it on Apple Music Spotify, or wherever you listen to music This show is written produced and edited by me Steven Bradford long and it is supported by my firstname.lastname@example.org forward slash Steven Bradford long as always Hail Satan. And thanks for listening