Earlier today, as dark clouds gathered, thunder and lightning assailed our ears and eyes in San Antonio, Texas, Doug Johnson (Blue Skunk Blog) was hard at work crafting a response to a blog entry I’d written several years ago, which is an eternity in blog-time. As I re-read the post, I remembered what fun blogging once was and realized, “Oh wow, I need to have more fun with my current blog entries!”
The post I’d written years ago was Jelllyfish Blogger -Radical Transparency. In it, I make the case for bloggers as transparent as jellyfish, sharing everything, illuminated against a dark background where danger lurks in luminscent awe–attracted by our unique brilliance yet repelled by their fear of being individually brilliant–fearful photo-sensitive bosses, eager to rend and tear with their sharp teeth, spikes of ivory and ignorance.
|Two bloggers caught in the dark
Image Source: Finding Nemo
The concept of radical transparency challenges us, not to embrace fear of dark spaces and polite conversation that masks the truth of our experiences and how we express them, but to lay bare our teaching, learning and leading processes, sharing our reflections on those processes. Doug Johnson remarks:
The “monster” of the “puritanical public” may well be those people concerned about student and staff privacy, accuracy of information, and appropriate topics for public discourse. No matter how well disguised, people who are used as “bad examples” will recognize themselves and the public outing will cause strained or broken relationships. Some situations are sufficiently complex, nuanced, or values-driven that it is difficult if not impossible to explain them to a lay audience.
Doug’s words are certainly wise to consider. Radical transparency of the sort that “outs” flawed thinking, disregards critical, nuanced topics for public discourse, refuses to grapple with the consequences of bad actors SHOULD be avoided. While sunshine is the best disinfectant, we must at all costs protect the sanctity of well-intentioned mistakes that damage credibility–if only they were known–of the institution. Hmm…yes, though I wrote this so long ago, I too must find balance in NOT speaking out of turn, of stripping away the facade of fakery.
Is this truly what American schools, what American citizens and schools need today? Job security at the risk of moral purity, peace and harmony at the risk of freedom of speech? Domesticated education at the risk of liberating education that teaches higher-order and critical thinking? Alas, Babylon!
Marred by fractious arguments on cable channels, clamoring voices demanding that everyone adopt their pundits’ stance, the swirl of sinister sycophants, brainwashed and bifurcated politics, the fearful find little of merit in what anyone does. Ignorance and bigotry go hand in hand down the road of good, albeit infernal, intentions. In the face of such violent vehemence stands one blogger, his blue skunk’s tail cast into the air like a knight’s banner, a grandfatherly individual holds high his King’s writ, emboldened by advice made holy by age and care:
- Write assuming your boss is reading.
- Gripe globally; praise locally.
- Write for edited publications.
- Write out of goodness.
Ah, such advice doesn’t challenge the concepts of radical transparency, does it? We should all hope to be radically transparent about work-related topics, about lessons learned from success–and how we strive for it, for what scientist does not recall Edison’s words, “1000 ways to success,” when asked about his failures. I write like the world is reading, of which my boss is but one voice worthy of reading my “barbaric YAWP.” After all, isn’t one’s boss diminished by the value their team fails to add to the pool of meaning? Doesn’t the boss’ chance of success in any endeavor diminish if his team fails to contribute to that pool of meaning?
In truth, such advice challenges not only the concepts of radical transparency, but what it means to be human, a creature of logic and emotion blended together with no seam to separate, accepted or discounted as an individual.
Often, we imagine radical transparency as an either-or proposition. For example, Doug’s points presuppose the following:
What we write is either good or bad, bad in that it garners negative attention that can get you fired. Why must radical transparency be either “in your face, you screwed up with us, the sinister sycophants,” or pollyanna sharing about lessons one has learned amidst the struggles each of us faces as human beings? When I first wrote my “Jellyfish Blogger” entry, it certainly seemed like an either/or proposition. But is radical transparency so black and white, light or dark, blessed or rejected? Only for those who cannot see the beautiful colors of the jellyfish when properly illuminated.
The truth is, blogging enables one to ask, “How can what I share about in my writing speak the truth of that situation to those involved in it and do so in a way that builds the relationships among us?”
In gripe globally, praise locally, the suggestion in the choice is that one can only gripe when being a radically transparent blogger, one should safeguard one’s position by only “praising locally.” What’s the sucker’s choice made there? Simply, that is there a way to share challenges that are faced locally in the context of a global gripe and/or praise what is found locally that echoes a global stage? There many paths that we can choose, why must it be the “high” or “low” road with the positive and negative connotations of each?
In the “write out of goodness,” oh, what great advice we are given as bloggers. But I must ask, “As human beings, aren’t we good from the start? What evil we accrue comes to us as a matter of living, poor choices and experiences that disengage us from the reality we must embrace for growth. If we write of goodness only, the danger is we fail to embrace the experiences that engage us fundamentally as human beings. Don’t you believe that the goodness writ on the hearts of human beings should be engaged, encouraged to emerge from beneath the grime heaped on it? I do.
Let’s rethink Doug’s advice, perhaps craft them as guideposts along a desolate road, a journey seldom taken to find the spirit that abides within our hearts:
- Write assuming that God, merciful and loving, longs fervently for words that will strike the shackles from the minds of our children, our parents, our co-workers, and, our bosses.
- Encourage the divine to emerge, even as you document the levels of obstacles, like a man remarking on the color and texture of that which blocks his sight, all removed like scales from a blind man’s eyes.
- Write as if your words will find every surface, paper and digital, a billboard for greatness you are engaged in with others. (or, if you prefer, “…a billboard for the greatness you bear witness to and that inspires you to greatness.”)
- Allow “goodness” inherent in your soul to manifest, unbound.
Perhaps, Doug’s advice is easier to follow. Perhaps, the road taken may allow us a quiet journey, unencumbered by too much information. Sure, there are all days we shouldn’t get up, when life’s troubles have tossed us to the ground, accepting our “lumps” a matter for private reflection and growth. As I grow older, I begin to see those as a reminder that I don’t know it all, that if I but stop and consider…ah well, wouldn’t it be helpful, might not now may be that time…to let goodness manifest? While all might fault “TMI” what about TMG? (too much goodness, too much guhlin)
Note: Thanks to Doug for responding to an “old” blog entry. It goes to show that all can be made new, if republished and reinterpreted. I’m grateful for the reflections and the opportunity to play with ideas and words. I apologize for the alliteration, a tell-tale sign of play in my writing, the overblown phrases, the mystical allusions. I must confess that, unlike Doug, I am a coward, cheat, and a liar, a reprobate seeking salvation, a pharisee who whines and offers up venial sins in the temple, when the back row, if not the ditch outside, would make for better place to say with humanity, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”