Sunday, November 28, 2010

In The Long Run

The sun gives ground to a long cold night,
And you screw up your courage for another fight,
But you know in your heart it’ll be all right in the long run.
--Redgum, Long Run

I’ve blogged before about the power that music has to transport us out of ourselves, if only for a few moments. For me there are many bands, artists, and types of music that can do that. One of them is definitely Redgum, an Australian folk-rock band of the late 70s and early 80s. They are unknown overseas, and in Australia they are remembered mainly as a one-hit wonder for the song I was only 19, addressing the experience of Vietnam war vets. But they had a lot of other great songs that have been sadly forgotten, one of them being the song Long Run.

Some have seen this song as a criticism of the stereotypical Australian “She’ll be right mate, don’t worry about it” attitude. But I interpret it differently. Gradually as time passes I am coming to believe that things will be all right in the long run. But not because of destiny or any natural fairness in the world. They will be all right in the long run if we make them be all right.

Looking back over the last few centuries at all the improvements that have been made in Australia and other countries, progress has come from struggle. People struggled for the right to vote, for the right to have decent working conditions, for the right to equal treatment under the law regardless of sex, race, creed or sexual preference. None of these battles are ever entirely won. But where progress has been made, it is not because of any immutable law of progress or divine gift. It has been made because many people paid with, to quote old Winston Churchill: blood, toil, tears and sweat.

I think the same principles apply in our personal life. For those of us who struggle with depression or another mental illness life is a challenge. Some people find consolation in religions of various types, a belief in destiny or a cosmic plan, or in self-help books like “The Secret” that say we just have to think positive and everything will work out magically. I don’t find any of these to be convincing. I’ve been an atheist for a long time, and I have never found that many results come from prayers or wishful thinking. In my experience, results come from work.

I think that everyone wants their life to be better, and that we all do the best we can at any given time. There is still a long road ahead of me to where I want to be as a person. But I am making steps down that road. I’ve taken many hits along the way, but I am strong enough to have withstood them, and I am gradually learning to accept myself and be satisfied with the progress I am making. And for the first time in my life, I am slowly beginning to believe that things will indeed be all right in the long run.


  1. I really believe you're right, that regardless of how many of us look for the quick and easy "fix" the only road to wellness is the one requiring hard work. That's my experience, and I'm in recovery now thanks to the hard work combo of DBT and CBT. Great post, and thanks for the Redgum reminder - they also do a great cover of the Eric Bogle song "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". Classic Oz band.

  2. I couldn't agree with you more that people make progress through struggle - I first thought my depression was nothing but a disaster, but I'm finally beginning to believe that is not necessarily true. I've been learning a lot from my illness, which I think will be an asset as I get older. I feel a lot of positive energy from this post, and that is great. By the way, I like Utada Hikaru. She rocks!

  3. Hi Lil, I haven't heard Redgum's cover of "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda", but my favorite version is probably the one done by the Pogues. I am glad to hear that you are in recovery now. Yes, the slow and steady struggle is the only way through.

    Hello Takashi, I've heard of Utada Hikaru, but I haven't listened to her music so far. I haven't listened to much Japanese music, but I do like "The Blue Hearts".

    There is no doubt that depression sucks. It is not a blessing and I would rather not have it. But there are some things we can learn from having to deal with it, assuming we are tough enough to survive it. Life is full of challenges, and depression is simply a particularly difficult one.