It's the artist's ultimate dilemna: is anybody listening? Is anybody listening to this constant howling? Will the moon ever write back? Perhaps it is not the artist's dilemna, but that of the religious devotee. Will God ever hear my thoughts and prayers?
Two activities that have been taking up most of my time lately have brought this thought to the forefront of my mind. One has been my involvement in the ongoing anti-racist movement. The other has been the work I do with wine on this website. And the nuance of the question of "is anybody listening?" can be taken a step further in asking oneself: Am I providing a service or am I just looking to serve myself and push my own world on others?
This can feel complicated. But, I don't think it is. I think it's a matter of asking yourself yet another question: Are my activities carried out with the goal of bringing more joy to others? Furthermore, is that joy derived simply through providing confirmation bias for someone else, or is the work I am doing legitimately serving another person?
Is there anything other than simply agreeing with your point that another person can use for personal growth? Is there any information or any tools in your work that can help somebody? To be clear, I certainly did not start this project for people to congratulate me on my theories and view points. I started it because I felt like I had skills, perspective, and experience that, when shared and shown to others, might help them bring the same joy to their lives that I have been brought by these things. Flat out, I've been able to help people have a better wine experience so many times, and it brings me joy to see that I've been able to provide them with a glass, a bottle, a story, and a perspective that equates to them having more fun and more delighted taste buds that day. That's my goal Every. Single. Time. that I sit down in front of my computer.
Anti-racism. That's been something that I did not actively recognize or focus on until the recent wave of events. And it's the same question I ask myself each night when I lay in bed, look up at the stars, and wonder where my roof is: am I actually helping in the fight?
I was peacefully protesting the other day in my community. I had two couples who were walking togther (do I even need to mention that they were white?) who stopped to suggest that we were making the problem worse, and the best thing to do to fix the problem would be to say nothing and stop worrying about it. It will fix itself, they said. Well, I was feeling hot, and we got into it. Voices were raised. This curmudgeony fellow at one point took a step towards me as if to threaten me physically, although he was reined in abruptly by his wife. I asked them to explain themselves, they couldn't, and then the wheels came off and it was simply one little dog (me) against four plump cats (them). We exchanged exaggerated pleasantries, so to speak, for a couple minutes and they finally took off. Heart was pounding. I realized quickly that they had probably gotten the best of my emotions. I hadn't felt that heated with anyone in a very long time. My immediate reaction was that I wasted my breath and should have simply let them go without a fight. I clearly didn't change their minds on the spot.
The next day, however, I had a realization. No, I did not convince them that racism does in fact exist and is a genuine and serious problem in many places, including our quaint little town. I did not convince them to act as allies for indigenous communities and people of colour. But the one thing I realized was that I made it really hard and uncomfortable for them to be complicitly racist that day. I suspect that, given the appearance of intense emotional baggage all over their bodies, that I got over the interaction a lot faster than they did. Sure, they might hate me. They might hate the movement a little more. But they're probably still thinking about it. Maybe they'll tell the story to someone they respect, and maybe that person will also disagree with them. I don't know. But I know it was harder for them to believe the things they believe about racism and its existence.
It's a constant self-evaluation to make sure that, genuinely, I'm not doing this for the wrong reasons. Did I take action this week? Did I make it more difficult for someone to profess their racism, be it active or complicit? Did I do anything that actively created an opportunity for a person of colour to walk a path less inundated by discrimination than it was the day before?
Did I take tangible action to serve somebody else? Or was I just howling in vain at a moon that won't listen?
It's an honest question, and I will continue to search myself for the honest answer.