Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Being Clear on Transparency

A recent walk on the beach inspired
all this transparency thinking...
Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the issue of transparency. Maybe because it has become a favorite buzz word of politicians and pundits of all political persuasions. Or maybe it’s because social media have given people a convenient forum for proclaiming their every action and thought, no matter how trivial or offensive. Most likely, though, this transparency thinking was spurred by a recent walk on the beach in search of sea glass.

Frosty nuggets of varying hues, as lovely as any semi-precious stone
I wasn’t aware of the existence of sea glass until I read a magazine article about it a few years ago. Being a landlocked beach bum, I became mesmerized by its beauty. I switched the focus of any beach-combing opportunity from searching for shells to searching for this rare ocean gem. Rare because it’s much harder to find than shells, even intact ones.  And a gem because—while mankind does lend a hand—nature applies patience and force to make this glass as lovely as any semi-precious stone. The process for making sea glass is cyclic. Nature gives sand and heat to humans, who combine these components in such a way as to produce glass. Then, some bits of that glass eventually find their way back to nature, specifically to the sea. Over time, sand and surf toss and tumble those bits until they are polished to frosty nuggets of varying hues. 

During my most recent search for this treasure, I picked up the occasional piece of glass, examined it for its cloudy quality, and ran my finger around the edges.  Any shards that still contained transparent spots or sharp edges were discarded—given back to the sea so she could continue working her magic on them. The pieces passing muster—after hours of searching, there were only a couple—had been sanded to translucence, permitting  muted rather than glaring light to pass through them. The edges had been buffed to harmless smoothness. The chosen pieces were pleasing to my eye, soothing to my touch, and satisfying to my soul.

Transparency has its place...
Transparent glass has its place. If I buy a jar of pickles, I want to see them through the clear jar and know exactly what I’m getting. Transparent windows in my house allow enough sun for me to see clearly in daytime hours without artificial means. But, depending on its purpose, glass doesn’t always have to expose everything. Sometimes, glass is beautiful and desired when it has been rendered hazy but still allows light to penetrate in a softer, gentler way.

I look at the need for transparency of information much the same. Times exist when we definitely need clear-cut, accurate facts to make informed decisions that will impact our lives. But like glass, stark, revealing words are not needed in any and all situations. Do we really need information that won’t affect our lives other than insult our intelligence or offend our sensibilities? Do we need information for which we lack the necessary background or ability to process? Are we entitled to every jot and tittle of information even when it might result in harm to others? I’m not talking just politics or government, here. There are plenty of instances in our personal lives when we should carefully consider and answer those same questions. This discernment also applies to the words we speak. Is it really necessary for all of our opinions to be shared? Even if we state facts, is it necessary they be expressed? If they are, has the filter of care or concern or tact made our words less glaring and harsh? Will something constructive be achieved from their being spoken? 

Long ago a very wise person (source obscure) established a litmus test for the words we speak. I will add we should also apply this test to the words we listen to. We should always ask, “Is it true?” “Is it kind?” “Is it necessary?” It’s a practice much easier said than done. It usually takes years to learn, and sadly we often undergo much tumbling and tossing before we perfect it, if perfection is even attainable. However, if we diligently pursue it, this habit has the potential to turn our words into rare, polished gems  . . . as rare and polished as sea glass.