Good fences make good neighbors, or so they say. It’s a fine line, though, isn’t it, the creation and maintenance of a visible boundary and yet allowing for the relationship? And if you think about it, no one really teaches us Fence Building 101 – not in school, not ever.
And yet there’s truth to it. There is something about the human organism which requires containment, a safe place in which to regenerate and at the same time, we need to know that we are not alone. Just another paradox in this being human adventure, of course, and perhaps a really fundamental one.
How do we teach our children, our selves, our world to allow for this? To see both imaginary and literal borders as protected, as sovereign, as sacred? More plainly put, as a good thing, versus something to fight over, to overtake, to invade?
And how do we maintain our fences yet be sure that there are gates which we can open from time to time? Gates which open easily and allow for us to visit with each other, to welcome those we love and those we do not know…this seems to be the trickier part.
I live in a country which seems to maintain its fences in a way that is largely powered by fear, or at the very least, by a great deal of anxiety. In our constant vigilance, our wanting to protect our freedoms, our desire for protection, who knows what good company we are keeping out as we lock down our gates more securely than ever. In a country grown and expanded by the very presence of generations of immigrants, we seem to have forgotten that new blood can be a very very good thing.
My greatest fear in all of it is this: that our innermost and personal fences may be following the very same pattern. That in creating super fences, we may well be isolating ourselves in ways that eliminate neighbors altogether. That we will all become foreign to each other.
And that could be the beginning of the end of humankind.
Another ten minute free writing piece from my writing group with Jena Schwartz. Amazing, what a simple prompt will pull up!
The image is from an installation at Cornerstone Garden in Sonoma. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.