On “clearing the air”

In the first week of December 1952, London, England was overwhelmed with a thick polluted fog we call smog. The air was locked in place for four days. The air mass was cold and citizens of London continued to burn coal to keep warm. The result was that everything was blanketed in black. The smog blackened the lungs of cows, library books, even undergarments. It is said that December 7th was the worst day. That day there was little sunlight and you could only see a few yards in front of you.

 Though it was difficult to measure how many people died because of the air during those 4 days, it is estimated that at least 4,000 died because of the polluted fog. Some estimates place the number as high as 12,000.     

 After those 4 days in December, Londoners no longer thought romantically about the London fog. The world no longer saw pollution as a natural consequence of living in a city. Though the response was slow, it was clear that the attitude toward pollution began to change because of the event. Pollution was a big deal. Several clean air acts were passed in the ensuing years.

 There is an interesting expression we use in terms of relationships with other people. When there is a perceived problem between us and others we sometimes wish to speak to the other person and “clear the air.” We use this phrase to clear up doubt or disagreement. We want to clear the air so that we understand where other people are coming from and to ensure they know where we are coming from.

 Sometimes we except unclean air in our communication with other people. Though it might help avoid conflict temporarily, it is destructive to our relationships to avoid dealing with clouded and unclean air.

We ought to do all that we can to clear the air before we destroy the relationships we have spent so much time and energy building. We need to make sure we guard against polluted relationships that come from unclear communication.

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