The last few weeks have been rather tempestuous. Like many people, I seem to have picked up a part-time job in community support and bridge-building in my online and real-world communities. A few people have asked me why I haven’t shared what I’m up to and what I’m thinking and feeling here on Productive Flourishing.
Until last week, I didn’t have a principled answer to the question. Despite a few essays here and there, I’ve typically resisted polarizing and politicizing my work here, though there is very much a progressive and humanistic foundation to everything I share.
But the mission of this site has never been to convert people to or affirm someone’s particular ideologies, worldview, or politics. And yet, we decide what the mission of our platforms are, so the fact that it wasn’t directly political in the past didn’t really answer the question of why I’ve separated political and civic discourse from everything else here. Whence the resistance?
Last week it became clear to me that it wasn’t just the natural fears and discomfort that comes with talking about politics. If it were that, I also wouldn’t be sharing it on Facebook and leaning into tough conversations here in Portland. I also wouldn’t be working through essays that I intend to publish.
There were three main themes that bubbled up:
- I want Productive Flourishing to be a place where we could show up and get stuff done without putting on armor, having to unpack privilege or throw down an ally card, or be excluded or demeaned because of a freaking label that says nothing about who we actually are. I want this to be a place where we can focus on walking the talk rather than just talking. Many of my social justice colleagues will perhaps comment that not talking about the societal issues that plague us only ensures the status quo continues. There is some truth to that, at the same time that we don’t have to equate silence in one space to silence across all spaces.
- I thought about the countless conversations I’ve had with other Creative Giants from a variety of backgrounds, and a recurring theme is that we don’t want every part of our day to revolve around what makes us different. We also tend to have views that don’t fit the labels that have been put on us, which makes joining the conversation even more challenging because we’re having to de-lump ourselves and respond to the mix of confusion, betrayal, curiosity, and cognitive dissonance that occurs in others when one asserts their individuality from a category. It can be exhausting to be a novelty item everywhere you go when your novelty is focused on parts of yourself that you can’t change and that don’t define the totality of who you are.
- It’s surprisingly hard to have reasonable political and civic discourse online. That was true before this election and it’s only gotten worse. To be 100% clear, this applies across parties, across left and right, across liberal and conservative. You’ve seen it and felt it. In moments of frustration, hurt, fear, and anger, you may have thrown a stone, too. I’ve caught myself right before posting stuff plenty of times and have edited posts to correct myself.
For the reasons above, Productive Flourishing will remain a mostly apolitical sanctuary. I say “mostly” because we will continue to have conversations on the Creative Giant Show that cross boundaries and present diverse perspectives. Who we are and what we believe shows up in our work and I’m not going to stifle organic conversations, especially since I can guide those conversations to be illuminative, reasonable, and inclusive. My work also crosses boundaries – always has, always will – so I’m leaving the door open such that I can comment on and include relevant ideas.
The downside to this decision is that I’m now in the position where major parts of my heart are in a different place than where my business is right now. Writing a book is hard; writing a book when your fire is in a completely different domain is exceptionally difficult. The same goes for creating shorter-form content like this post, but it’s significantly easier because it doesn’t take as much sustained focus.
To be clear, it’s not as if I don’t believe that what I do here matters: helping people get back to doing work they care about is incredibly important. It’s perhaps even more important right now than it ever has been. The tension is thus that there’s a component of the work I’m called to do that doesn’t currently have an outlet and home here.
My task now is to figure out how to balance the apolitical and important work I do here with the important overtly political work I’m called to do elsewhere. I don’t know where this new road is going and I’m okay with what emerges. You may be in a similar position, so know that I get it and we’re still in this together. You may also have found your vein of happiness and want to keep striking it; I get it and we’re still in this together, too.
As of now, I know I’ll be developing my political body of work and commentary on Medium, so you can go ahead and follow me there if you’d like to see how that conversation unfolds.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. 🙂