Recently, James and I were asked to play at a single launch for our friend MC Pony, with whom we'd collaborated on her new single Mother and Child. This song is the story of the cruelty that exists in the commercial dairy industry. At the launch, we'd been shown a disturbing video of the extent of the cruelty inflicted on cows in the name of producing our dairy products. It was shocking and gruelling to get through.
Then next up.....James and Naomi - the upbeat, folk country duo act, there to entertain the punters.
As the presentation was wrapping up, I could see the dissonance that was going to fill the room. Everyone was sombre and a bit in shock after seeing the scenes we had been shown.
How were James and I going to carry off such a 180 degree change in mood without looking shallow or cruel or ridiculous.
What ensued was a quick and heavy review of why we do what we do, as live performing musicians.
As I stood at the microphone about to launch into our first song, I started at the only place a good counsellor and wellness coach should (btw - thats what I do in my non-music life!): I owned the uncomfortableness I was feeling publicly. I came clean and said what I suspected was true for most people in the room. That I was kinda shocked and disturbed by what I'd seen.
I went on to say that it can seem weird and shallow to swing into some happy music straight after that.
But here's the thing that occurred to me at that moment: We NEED to swing into the upbeat music, right then. Because there's a reason we are disturbed by cruelty....there's a reason we want to take action to stop it.....there's a reason we are riled in anger at injustice.....
Life should be happy. Life should be joyful. Life should be hopeful. Life should feel beautiful.
These truths are innate in us - when we see the injustice and cruelty that removes them from the lives of people or animals, it disturbs us, angers us and motivates us to take action to change it.
And if life is meant to be joyful, hopeful and beautiful then we have a responsibility toward those things, not just to fight back when we see them stolen from other beings, but to live them out fully while we are able.
And most importantly, if we don't do this, we are letting the bed guys win. We give power to those who would remove joy, hope and beauty from the lives of other beings.....we allow them to remove it from our lives as well.
And that is not ok.
While James and I went on to play our unique brand of happy, real, mature folk country and it still felt a little awkward at first, it was clear that I had put the audience at ease, allowing them to better enjoy the joy, hope and beauty we were offering.
For me, music, and art in general, is increasingly important for the turning of society. The need for an unshakeable belief in the essence of life as joy, hope and beauty is becoming more and more necessary. Fickle and superficial avoidance of the hardship and suffering of other beings doesn't cut it - we have to care enough to be aware, and then to let the truth motivate us to improve joy, hope and beauty for all beings.
But it starts with not letting anything rob us of those qualities. Otherwise activism is only angry, it's only combative, it gets ugly and violent and destroys what it should be fighting for.
James and I will continue to support our vegan friends at the upcoming Cruelty Free Festival, because while (full disclosure) we are not vegans and we do wear leather and eat dairy, we do not support cruelty and make our choices carefully, consciously and with every effort to reduce cruelty wherever possible. And our experience with our vegan colleagues has greatly reduce the amount of meat we eat, and I suspect, will continue to change our choices.
May you find ways to raise your joy, hope and beauty today, that you may be full and well equipped to bring it to the world.