We work in the dark – we do what we can
There is a quote that I have been writing in journals and on walls and living with since I was in high school.
“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” ~ Henry James, The Middle Years.
To me, this has always meant that we work quietly, in the dark, to make things better and the quiet and the darkness do not diminish the passion that is behind the action, but rather, emphasize it. I was brought up in a religion and culture that actively discourages people from being ‘political’ and so, even now, I find it difficult to speak up about certain things. For example, I would never allow someone to say something offensive in my presence, but to protest would be outside of my sphere. So all my life I have worked in the dark. I give money and I work for NGOs and I try to create safe space for people in my life; and I would never post online about such things because it would feel like I was looking for praise or validation – making whatever Good thing I was doing less Good by making it about myself.
But times are changing aren’t they.
Because we are hitting a point where the simple act of not standing up means taking a side. Me quietly trying to do things in the background while simultaneously not rocking the boat isn’t enough anymore. And I realize as I write these words that ‘anymore’ is incorrect – it was never enough – but the layers of insulation that I have being white/middle-class/Canadian allowed me to think things were better than they are.
My job, my career, the thing that I think I was meant to do in this life, is teaching specialized kinesiology classes. In these classes we talk about vibration and intention – my ability to create a better world/body/mind for myself through my own visualization and perception. I understand that I only get to do this because layers of privilege insulate me currently. You can’t spend time on this sort of thing if you are fighting for your life, if you are concerned about your survival. But this career path puts me in a unique position. I want to help by being the change I wish to see. I don’t want to spend my day raging against the machine. So where do I go from here?
Let’s start with something basic. Love is love. Black lives matter. Two statements that both seem so obvious and basic and primal to me that I don’t usually bother writing them because how can it possibly be ok to disagree with this? And yet I know that in the simple act of posting this, I will lose friends and followers and students and business. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s that I care more about safety and love and justice, and I can’t pretend that I don’t anymore.
I write because I don’t understand and because I know that my thoughts are clearer when I type them out than when I let my inarticulate mouth figure things out as we go. I have always tried to make our home safe for friends and my kids’ friends regardless of their race, orientation, and identity, without really thinking about that. I shouldn’t have to make my house safe – the world should be safe. My job is not to create a haven, but to help them change the outside so they don’t need to hide and heal between beatings by a system determined to tear them down.
I’ll do better, I’ll be louder. I know I don’t get it, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try.