Writing, especially about sticky topics, is a risky endeavor. The words may find the uneven surface of the reader, a surface comprised of personal history, scars, accomplishments, beliefs, and values. Like hitting a tennis ball against a jagged a rock wall, the words can return in surprising ways. Of course that’s the great honor too – that words is heard; that they hit that unhewn place of resonance. But if you are writing to be understood, and I believe that we are, the warped bounce-back can be a source of frustration.
Yesterday I began to over-explain in the comment section and hearing my own words with a shrill tone. I realized that I had strayed from my original intent, which was to say that we all have opinions that have formed from lifetimes of outside and sometimes uncontrollable sources. My intent was never to say that I was right and I don’t believe I claimed such. But once strong words interact with the fuzz of an incredibly sensitive topic, the intent can cease to matter.
What I hope to create is a world where we can share that point of view without fear of reprisal. A world where one point of view, even one that falls out of line with expectations or orthodoxy, can be voiced and received without become the single defining point of one’s existence. Only when we dare to dust off our thoughts and opinions can we examine them in the bright light of day. But if, when they peek out of the hole, the shouting and shame scare them back in, all we have is six more weeks of winter.
I’ve encountered mostly the opposite of safety in my life – too much rigidity and not enough soft landing places for people’s myriad truths. And I’m here to tell ya, walking that particular talk ain’t easy. I deleted my comments that seemed to be veering into “I’m going fight my way off the ropes” territory and decided to listen more. Maybe it’s impossible to build my dream-world, but I intend to keep trying. As one of the midwives of my life, Mary Pierce Brosmer says, sometimes we have to build what we need.
Of course, William Stafford says it way better than me, so I’ll hand the mic over to him. After all, the darkness around us is deep.
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.