Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Walls, Fences, Boundaries, and Shibboleths

Yes, it's been a terrible day. Pain, disability, uninterested doctor, finally a fall. Grrr. Still, it was better than yesterday -- are things improving? Don't know, but ain't it great that the mind and heart can still function!

And I've been pondering walls, fences, boundaries.

I confess, I can get quite grouchy listening to ministers witter on about "boundaries", as in "he doesn't have good boundaries". It's become a shibboleth, folks (check your dictionary if that religious term hasn't crossed your boundaries yet...) And, all too often, stands as shorthand for "He does things I don't like" or "He's doing something too courageous for me to attempt, and I'm trying to justify my cowardice to myself" or just "He pisses me off".

There is nothing inherently morally superior about boundaries, folks. Some of them are just walls, like the wall against Mexicans, and the wall in Baghdad. Harsh, even cruel, unyielding, definitely non-organic.

And yet, yes, as Robert Frost said, there are times and ways in which good fences, good boundaries, make for humane and comfortable living. That fence on the beach lets a lot of sand move back and forth, OK for preserving dunes, but not such a good model for some times in our human lives. Sometimes we need boundaries that are not quite so porous. A friend has finally said "No, I'm sorry, but this must stop" to someone taking advantage of her, and they are both the better for it. And my friend is sorry, and it is right for her to say so, before any "boundaries specialists" write in to tell me she shouldn't have said that part. In this situation it was right and appropriate.

I like to think of the kind of boundaries we need as the lovely Kentucky fence you see above, a boundary through which one is still free to talk, and love, and relate ... totally organic.

Unless, of course, we find a way to make them simply splendid and for fun, like Christo's fantastic early art piece, a color-filled mind-blowing wall made out of thousands of discarded oil drums.

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