[personal profile] ewt
I've been thinking a lot the last few weeks about community and responsibility and effectiveness and improvement and interconnectedness. I've been thinking about how lucky I am that my two main career activities do actually involve making the world better, in some small way. I have also the privilege of working and playing with so many people who make the world better in a variety of different ways... and I'm not just talking about career stuff there, by a long way: people I know through social and family groups are pretty amazing, too.

I think it's very easy, though, to lose sight of what we do to improve the world, and to lose sight of what we would like to do. I think that in something this important, awareness is a good thing. So, some questions:

What do you currently do as a regular part of your life that improves the world? How does it work? What are you actually contributing?

What would you like to do to improve the world, that you don't currently participate/engage in?

Is there someone in your life, near or far, who inspires you to make improvements? What do they do that is so special? How has it affected you directly, and how has it affected you indirectly?


What do you currently do as a regular part of your life that improves the world? How does it work? What are you actually contributing?

I am, by career, a performer and a teacher of music. I could wax on about the philosophy of both of those things for quite a long time but what my contribution really boils down to, I think, is shared joy. Shared meaning, even, shared beauty. If find music that is amazing and I perform it and one person in the audience finds it moving or beautiful then I have done my job successfully. If I help one student to learn tools which give them access to greater understanding of the world or themselves (and oh, so much of what I teach is about that rather than really being about music), I have done my job successfully. I teach regularly. I performed regularly in the past and am working up to more regular performance again, of a different standard. I find it deeply satisfying that I have these two things as the mainstay of my career, as well as deeply frustrating when I don't know if I'm doing them effectively.

I try to be honest with myself and with others, slow to condemn, cautious of doing harm and quick to make amends. I try to see the best in everyone. I have no special talent in any of these but I hope that perhaps some aspects of my life can be a small example, a small shadow of what might be possible, that perhaps people who don't come into formal contact with me as a performer or teacher can still benefit from my best attempts at candid understanding and right action. My best attempts are clumsy and awkward, but better than they'd be if I gave up trying.

What would you like to do to improve the world, that you don't currently participate/engage in?

I would like to be a far more ethical consumer of the world's resources: the fact is that I put my performance and teaching first, and my health limits what else I can do. I would like to eat far more local food, I would like to be far more discerning in my choices about which animal products I will use. I would like to cook more and eat out less, buy nothing which isn't Fair Trade at the very least, and do more to support ethical business. Instead I work hard all day and come home and often find that I'm so exhausted my options are 'get a takeaway and manage to get somethign else done tonight' or 'cook and wash up, but do nothing else tonight except sleep'.

I would like to do more structured, organised volunteer work with others. I used to help with the Cub Scouts but couldn't continue when I started university; I don't know that I could do something quite that involved again but an hour or two a week toward a cause I care about would make me feel much better about my place on the planet.

I'm hoping I'll be able to improve on both of these after my degree; it depends on the performance schedule, to an extent, but also on whether I can find somewhere to live with good food growing-and-storage facilities. The time-and-space cost is the thing that is getting me on this stuff now.

I would like to make more financial contributions to worthy charities. Right now that simply isn't an option: I have other costs to cover, and I don't improve the world by going bankrupt. It is also something that I hope to resume after university, though it may have to wait longer than the others.

Is there someone in your life, near or far, who inspires you to make improvements? What do they do that is so special? How has it affected you directly, and how has it affected you indirectly?

Oh, a thousand times yes! And no, I didn't make this question up just to gush about someone I care for.

I've been inspired and helped by many, many people in my life, and for this I am very grateful. I'm not going to talk about any particular one so my answers are going to be a bit vague, but I do encourage you to think about specific people in your life who are inspiring, if that helps you.

On the whole, those who have helped me have been people who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself, people who have been honest with me when I've been too frightened or confused to even ask the right questions, people who have picked me up and dusted me off and pointed me in the right direction again when I'd fallen or lost my way. I've been lost or nearly-lost an awful lot of times, and rescued just as many, and I still think it's amazing that there are people in the world who will do that.

Those who have inspired me have shown true courage and commitment to do the right thing in the face of difficult circumstances. That courage doesn't always mean a confrontational conflict, though it can at times. Seeing other people being courageous, in any way, gives me great hope. I suppose I've seen fear as a major negative force in my life, and it's good for me to see that people with more reason to fear than I have ever had are still able to overcome their fears and do good in the world.


Heavy stuff for a Sunday afternoon, but do have a go...
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The Wild Ewt of the Plains of Canada

September 2013

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