I wake up today and I wonder how to be in the world. How to be in the world after hearing of babies being taken from their Mothers and put in cages in the United States, after seeing the face of Fariborz Karami, the Iranian refugee seeking asylum, who took his own life after five years in detention on Nauru, after reading about Eurydice Dixon and the amount of women whose lives have been taken at the hand of violence in our country, after reading yet another devastating article about the state of the environment.
How does one wake up and walk through a world like this, in a way that matters, in a way that causes no harm, that makes a difference? What is that? What does that mean? How to make noise in a productive way? It is easy to feel overwhelmed, confronted, helpless. I am usually a voice saying we have to rise up, make noise, do what you can, tell your story. As an artist I feel this is what is asked of me, what is needed, my responsibility. Throughout history we have seen that it is often those on the fringes who make noise in creative ways that touch people, that reach people and yes that slowly make change. Last night I watched Nannette by Hannah Gadsby and am blown away. Here is an example of someone, of an artist making noise in a way which is powerful, articulate, clever, vulnerable, honest, important, confronting and very, very necessary. She asks the important question of how do we be with one another, with difference, how do we connect? And she makes some bloody great suggestions, starting with the truth of her own story.
So today, this is how I choose to walk through the world; I give myself about an hour of feeling hopeless and depressed, of feeling overwhelmed, now that is out of the way I think of the words of Patti Smith - “When you hit a wall, kick it in.” “People have the power.” Because we do and we have to remember that and attend to that in whatever way we can. Big and small. Hannah Gadsby’s powerful words are still circling within me and I look at the two beautiful boys in front of me. I turn and look at what is right in front of me. Here is where I can make my small difference, in how I raise these boys, in how I use language and talk about gender. In how we might unpack anger rather than turn away from it and allow it to brew unhealthily, about how we might practice and attend to difference, care and love, within our own home, within our relationships and community.
I drop my kids off at the childcare centre and when one of the staff member asks me how I am, I respond honestly, that I am feeling weary about the state of the world, that I can’t stop thinking about those babies taken from their mothers. I see at first is he slightly taken aback, not expecting this response but the usual chime of ‘Good thanks’ when asked how I am. Although he is slightly taken back I see he wants to engage in this conversation. He first thanks me for my honesty. He shares that he doesn’t engage with the news as it often makes him feel overwhelmed and helpless. I agree, but that little voice rises in me, saying yes but we have to do what we can or at least consider and engage together on what that doing might be exactly. Writing this now I could very easily think that my small list is pointless and pathetic, but I also think that, that is a waste of time. Maybe sharing this will be a waste of time and we’ve heard it all before, blah, blah but I at least have to try. Even in these small ways.
Because lots of people contributed in small ways to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Telethon yesterday and they raised over $800,000 and that will make a difference. Over $1.5 million has been raised in the United States through the organisation togetherrising working to reunite children separated from their parents, this too will make a difference. And maybe all the small, awkward conversations I am willing to have, particularly with people who I don’t know well, outside my circle of friends, may ripple out in ways I don’t know. I believe these small interactions can matter and my way of walking through the world is something my sons will see and so in this small way I try to take responsibility.
I can also see that my small list is pretty small and not hugely courageous, it doesn’t demand of me to get too far out of my comfort zone. And I think this also needs to happen. Apathy has a big part to play. Apathy and our addiction to small comforts. Small comforts that will/has led to huge discomfort and seemingly irreparable damage. I think it’s time we all got a little bit more uncomfortable and courageous. I want to engage in conversation with others about what that might look like? What that might look like, here, in the seemingly small life that I lead.
It feels pertinent to be thinking about this at Winter Solstice, the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. The night certainly feels long and dark and it can seem like the breaking day is far away, but I often turn to the natural world around me for comfort and companion, in the middle of Winter I know, that Spring will come and it is important to remember that, and keep looking to that, for who could get through Winter if we didn’t know and trust the promise of Spring? I also know it’s not easy, it's not all budding flowers, Winter brings pain and death, it is about how to be with them both. Sharing some good news, coming together to celebrate, alongside being with and attending courageously to the darkness. Reading about the Winter Solstice I am reminded that at this time people gather to be with one another through the dark night and to celebrate the coming of Spring. I read about the Iranian tradition of ‘Yaldā Night’ for the Winter Solstice, when friends and family gather together to eat, drink and read poetry. Fruits and nuts are eaten and pomegranates and watermelons are particularly significant. The red of these fruits symbolising the crimson hues of dawn and the glow of life. But I know it is not that simple as I come back to the Iranian refugee Fariborz Karami and the crimson hue left here. Again, it is about how we might be with both.
So, here’s to gathering together, here’s to conversation, here’s to putting words to the page to what we are witnessing and living, here’s to consciously tending to change in both small and big ways, here’s to remembering, trusting and turning to the promise of Spring while being with and in the dead of Winter.