By Jonathan Shuffield, OUTSpoken Radio
I sit here in the middle of a noisy coffee shop, in a city that is not my home, surrounded by strangers that only a city can supply and proceed to write this article with the focus of a Zen monk. If that sentence seems a bit discombobulated, then you are beginning to get a feel for my head space. For the past three days we have been on a quest of sorts, an exploratory expedition to gather information and make bridges. I may or may not feel a bit like Eva Peron on her Rainbow Tour and I may or may not be just gay enough to be excited by that reference. I am a believer in connections, in growth through relationships, and in the implicit strength of a handshake.
So here I perch, the last task before we make the long trek home and it is time to try to sift through the whirlwind and understand everything that has transpired. It’s been a trip filled with caveats and accolades, handshakes and finger waves, a master’s course in the politics of personal relationships. We are the new kids on the block, you see, we come from a distant and different land with stories of what is and what could be. There is a “way” things are done and we tend to upset that balance.
At just under two years old, our radio show OUTSpoken has grown solidly. We stand at the final stages of a project we have worked tirelessly on for eight months and we have our eyes on a horizon that some might call ambitious and others ridiculous. Mixed messages clutter our path on a daily basis. We are applauded for making things happen, yet reprimanded for not following the “proper” channels. We are politely warned to stay where we are and stay out of what we could not possibly understand, but celebrated for being bold and pressing the boundaries. We are briefed on the possibility of a “freeze,” an embargo of sorts on any new ideas we might wish to bring. In the end we are left in the center of a storm of confusing directives and left with no solid answers.
As it all swirls around us, this is what I know, it is all just noise. There is a strength in not understanding the “rules” or in simply making your own. The difference between arrogance and confidence is your approach and their choice to reproach. We can choose to live within the endless quotations or step forward and refuse to be punctuated. The narrative is truly written by the personal perspective. At the very least this trip has been confusing…or has it?
In reality, we never experienced a “freeze.” We met amazing people good at what they do who welcomed us warmly and spoke with us openly. We exchanged ideas, agreed and disagreed and parted with respect. We learned from some of the best and maintained our individual style of purpose. We had a choice to accept the rules as they are and I believe if we had all the warnings would have come to light. By the very act of working outside the status quo we were not subject to its rules and therefor found a whole other universe of possibility. Alliances are not made within the expected, but forged in the extraordinarily unexpected.
Within the chaos of this trip there are words of wisdom gleaned that we all can take lessons in, from the little talk show that could, to the individual citizen, to the an entire country and its leaders. The greatest goals have been accomplished, the most influential changes have been achieved by people who did not understand the way it “should” be done. Dreamers have created dreams because they did not know that they couldn’t.
As everyday history unfolds before us, to have a Supreme Court justice utter the words that something should not change because that is the way it has always been done is a travesty. To try to roadblock each other because they are achieving things in a way different than how we did is a terroristic act to ideas. The road ahead may be hard because the map will have to be made as we discover it, but isn’t that how we settled an entire country and made our way West? Isn’t that how we shot for the moon?
So as I prepare to close the laptop, take my coffee and hit the road, I am thankful for the people we encountered here. I am happy for the discussions and the exchanges, I welcome the doubts as much as the support. I am grateful for the difficult acceptance that there are truly no concrete answers and methods because it cleared our eyes to have genuine connections. In the end respect those around you and who came before you, but move forward in boldness because only in boldness is history truly made.