Friday, December 9, 2016

Shine Light and Speak Hope

"Camel's Red Leaves" by John Randall Nelson

This week, a friend of mine of the opposite political persuasion from me strongly suggested that we should "leave politics out of it" when discussing many topics which don't seem to be essentially political. For example, I guess we could agree that love, poetry, relationships, our dreams and aspirations, our inner family workings, and many other subjects, might be obvious examples. He was talking about more contentious issues, though, that he feels are just overly and needlessly politicized. I thought it over for a second, and said, "ABSOLUTELY. Let's promise each other to leave politics out of it, from here on out."

You see, I hoped that he would recognize immediately that I was agreeing because "let's leave politics out of it" surely can't mean "let's leave your politics out of it so that I can inject my own political agendas." Who would agree to that? Rather, what I was saying to him was more along the lines of a positive agreement that I know he doesn't want to be subjected to my politics any more than I want to be subjected to his, so let's agree to exclude those agendas from discussions where they are unwelcome, unnecessary, and distracting in order to focus more objectively and constructively on the actual, factual issues at hand.

Bicycular elements often feature in Nelson's pieces

What, then, do we mean by "political" exactly? It would seem best to define our terms, particularly that one, since I have experienced it being misused so often,  particularly in a work setting. "That's political" or "it's just office politics" and similar utterances are often devoid of any particular connection with actual politics, and more often than not usually just refer to something uncomfortable, misunderstood, wanting to be avoided, or unknown.

"Political," to paraphrase the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, refers to the organization of a State or part of a State; public life and affairs as involving authority and government ... belonging to or taking the side of an individual, organization, etc.; supporting particular ideas principles, or commitments in politics; acting according to interests of status and authority in an organization rather than matters of principle.

Put that way, due to the recent election and its results, a huge portion of our media exposure currently, both news and social, falls into this category. So, consequently, conversations propelled by recent media exposure seem inevitably to gravitate to the political. And my friend was right, bringing this focus to many topics is just distracting and often misleading.

Agreeing with him, I said back, "Good, let's make a pact to not talk politics, and to exclude political agendas or undercurrents from as many other subjects as possible. Instead, let's just shine light and speak hope."

Words on art

Straightforward, expository language that centers around facts which could in principle be proven or disproven is often a clear test of leaving politics out of it. On the plaque above, there are a few phrases which are potentially political in that they connect with topics which meet the definition above. In addition, the context of the plaque itself offers the possibility of politics entering into the discussion: public art, bicycles, bicycle paths, transportation, discussions about these either immediately or soon thereafter fall into the definition above. 

However, one can also imagine standing before this striking red steel tree with the portal to Camelback Mountain and the little bicycle touches, and making a focused attempt to shine light and speak hope. To leave politics out of it.

I absolutely LOVE the idea of looking at the phrase "..and where they meet almost a billion years of history is missing, lost to erosion," discussing it, and keeping politics far away. Get a mainstream geologist on out here. Talk about stratiography and geological dating, and really dig into this. Ask the geologist to walk you through the science of it, slowly, luxuriously reveling in the unrolling of data, hypothesis, and reasoning. It may be impossible for the human mind to reckon with a billion years of fullness, but there, right there between the red rock and the granite, that's a billion years of emptiness, of missing time, just gone. Here's why. What do you think? Wonderful.

View at sunset looking west from the vicinity of the red steel tree

I truly believe that trying keep politics out of it is going to drive my friend bonkers. I doubt he'll be able to sustain it. Even better, I'm imagining him exploding in a paroxysm of politics while I keep shining light and speaking hope. "Dude, take it easy," I'll suggest to him. "Let's go for a bike ride, look at some sunsets, take in some public art, think about billions of years and ancient civilizations that rose and fell right around here. And leave politics out of it."

Apolitical tree shining light and speaking hope


  1. What's important in such polarized times is that you HAVE a friend of the opposite political persuasion. Shine on, dude.

    1. To have breakfast with, enjoy coffee, and talk through things we disagree about, in a civil manner, of mutual respect. I'm hopeful that we graduate to politics some day, but, baby steps.

  2. I had fun with "sounds political but aren't" posts in 2012. Hard Right and Wacky Left can easily refer to turning actions in traffic.


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