Storytellers are architects.
Our craft is about projections, blueprints, and framework. While our products seem final in their own context, it is up to us to first enact the scene before scrupulously building and maintain our creations. No matter what we say to explain away our decisive power to dictate our own perspective, that poetic justice is ultimately undeniable. If taught to work around our bias and prejudice, the power to scrutinize, probe and vet is the only path to free and fair constructions of our products. Products which are one of the few things that allow people to connect with thoughts, emotions and revelations that may yet escape their personal perspectives.
While it is the most volatile, politics are also the forum where those stories can have the most consequence. The field of journalism, an inherently story-based field, revolves around it. In this age where stories have become so prolific, journalism and politics are so intertwined that one cannot be considered without any perspective of the other. At its heart, everything is about each individual’s emotions, positions and experiences. For these reasons, it would be impossible for me to separate my stories from those political elements which surrounded any event worthy of a story this past weekend. It’s quite simply too important. For me, as a storyteller, transcribing the story of my life couldn’t be complete without the foundations clearly marked on the final blueprint. Even so, as I set out this past Saturday at 6AM, under a prenatal sun, my mind was not on politics. Instead, it was the gleeful convoluted dread of a 190-mile odyssey that lay before me and an old friend. Under the guide of the predawn streetlights we set off on a race against the sun since the early November day would be almost long enough to sustain our absurd idea of a Saturday well spent.
Yet, despite the intentions, we couldn’t escape the temporal context of the journey. As we toiled our way through the hinterland of Virginia’s piedmont, the signs of political division were inescapable. There where dueling Trump banners on a flagpole fashioned from a ladder and a mailbox, hand painted signs in support of Black Lives Matter, and the dichotomy of Christian politics. In all, it was a stark reminder of the intricacy of politics that maps, polls, and conventional news stories love to misconstrue. It was raw, even after the decisions had been made. After burying myself in the Tweets, articles, podcasts and non-stop coverage of men with XL-iPads telling meaninglessly repetitive stories of counting – COUNTING – the ride served as a perfect guillotine to sever myself from the heady anxiety of the election. With the promise of a far off, yet all too real promise of darkness, the phones remained in the pockets and the speculation of things out of our control was shunned to the backs of our psych, while the more philosophic and theoretical backing underpinning it all came to the fore.
Gabe, a cycling friend of mine for many years now, has always been the source of endless misadventure. Of the ten most impulsive and downright foolishly bold rides I have defined my life from, Gabe has probably been on six of them. Yet, here we are, again setting off on a ride we both know we probably won’t complete in an entirely safe manner. In retrospection, there was no one better suited to take on that certain adventure. We knew just the right times to speed up, to slow down, to wax about politics, or to simply hold a secure silence as we churned the pedals together in the endless nature our task called for.
For the first half, through smooth roads, detours and the constant ebb and flows of any good odyssey, he was the perfect partner to dissect the unknown result of the presidency. Then again, as we returned home, racing darkness, hunger and dehydration, while somehow processing the history that passed us by as we waxed and waned about what we wanted in our future.
In reality, the magnitude and beauty of the ride was the perfect context to come to terms with the past four years and the period we are at the dawn of. With the distance being so tremendous, even finishing the task at hand demanded a whole lot of attention. With the confines of a short Fall day, a certain level of present focus was called for nearly the entire day out. Yet, with the suffering and rhythmic churn of the gears, there was the room for truly deep and transformative reflection.
That power of the activity, paired with the nostalgia of riding from my new home to my old hometown, lay the groundwork for the emotion of it all. Yet, more than all of that, the surroundings we journeyed through set the scene for even more of a complete story. Amongst the small country roads and under a yellow curtain of fall foliage, a certain sentiment of hope emanated from the houses we passed by. Whether they voted for Trump or Biden, these people had passion, they had appreciation for the land around us, and hopefully would see the same scenes of beauty that has always moved me so much.
In all this contentious election cycle has existed this perspective of a necessary division. Yet, on the ground, in the detailed and variated reality of our society, we should agree that nature and our environment is important, that loving your neighbor is sometimes more important than “beating” them, and that above all kindness and compassion are the foundations of any society that is truly free and fair. From my perspective, and what has made me feel a certain level of cautious positivity, we as a country has voted for a future where those things are agreed upon.
Now, as I move my American flag from my closet and into my window, proud again to be an American who is seeking to realize the unfulfilled promises of the American dream, I can’t help but smile and hope. Hope for a future of truth, hope for a future of progress, hope for a future of tough and necessary debate, and lastly hope for a future where certain things are agreed upon. Primary of which has to be the environment that means so much to all of us who live for our time outside enjoying it.