Musings on Life

Power in Small Actions

Small Choices - 1

I was listening to a podcast a month ago that suggested I go out to eat at restaurant with a cuisine I do not typically eat that is independently owned preferably by recent immigrants. I thought about this and realized this is something we do often. We try a new restaurant every week. These small steps may seem insignificant but they matter. I will go to a restaurant and feel uncomfortable. I think back upon it and I have done this numerous times, ordered things I didn’t understand and tried dishes I might not have ordered had I been better informed. I do not look back on these experiences with regret.

One of the lessons I have learned through life is that fear is not something to be taken too seriously. Now I do realize there are circumstances where being afraid is of value, but in general in our modern lives fear does not actually help in most situations. Biologically fear was useful, and the cost for being afraid was slim because the cost of being unafraid were actually catastrophic. Historically being eaten by a tiger was more likely than it is today, and our biology has not caught up with the way society has evolved. We are a society that is afraid of things that are not deadly. We have unrealistic fears and ignore the more likely pitfalls. We do this with something as simple as going out to eat. One of the things I have learned as a person who is often afraid is that fear doesn’t last. I have spent quite a bit of time wading through the fear, wading through the failure and I have known that coming out the other side is worth it. My mind is able to construct eccentric ideas of what will happen, but those ideas often are lies.

I realize that the discomfort I feel in trying out a restaurant whose cuisine I have never had is a small price to pay. This is where I start to recognize my privilege.  I realize that many people experience much more discomfort on a regular basis. I can choose my discomfort, what a privilege that is. I often allow my moments of privilege to be unacknowledged . I am not aware of how safe I am and how lucky I am. I was born with the ability to go almost anywhere and feel safe. When I crossed the border into Canada I was not afraid. When I returned home, I knew I would have enough. I am able to take vacations. Some of this is a matter or circumstance, but most of this comes from being born white with enough money and resources. I have an education and I know how to gather and find resources. I am easily accepted and people do not fear me for reasons that have nothing to do with me personally. As we explore, I find it important to stay grounded and realize that my moments of uncertainty are just that, moments. How lucky that a vast majority of my life feels safe and secure.

I often think about how much of American culture focuses around greed, the more and cheaper and that we believe we really can have that at no cost. As I have read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I have started to see the hidden cost. The real cost that comes later with damage to the environment, poor working conditions for people, damage to animals and the creation of new disease. Michael Pollan suggests we can pay that cost now or later, and I would rather spend more money to pay it now, that being said it is quite a privileged thing to say. I have the ability. Part of me wants to suggest what he does that more of us have the money than we are willing to admit, we just typically choose to spend it on other things. Our choices matter, our actions matter, even on the small scale. We often think that we have no power, we disempower ourselves, but in reality everything we do shapes the world around us. Where we eat, what activities we participate in and the work we do changes the world we live in in a very real way. I do not write this to suggest that we all need to choose the same as me, but rather to acknowledge that even when we refuse to admit it, we are making a choice and that choices has real consequences so we should consider it wisely.

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