Monday, June 20, 2005

Through the Fence

There is a house I like to pass on my morning walks. It has beautiful flowers. I love flowers. I can't look at one closely and not wonder how anyone can doubt the existence of God. Recently I was able to enjoy the lush blooms of white peonies with delicate pink streaks in this yard. Now the lilies are in full swing. I live in an apartment building and can't grow my own flower beds, so I guess in a way I'm living vicariously through the owners of this particular house. The only thing hampering my enjoyment of the fruit of my neighbor's labor thus far has been a fence. It has obstructed my view, if ever so slightly. But this morning I saw that the lilies had managed to grow through the fence and spread onto the easement that is technically government property. Ah ha! The rebels...I guess no one had told them where to stop. And truth be told, I was grateful because now that they had broken through the fence, my view was no longer obstructed and I could inhale their beauty to the fullest. Maybe it was the wee small hours, or maybe I was hallucinating, (there goes that acid again) but as I looked at the fence, and the flowers that refused to be held back by it, I began to see hands reaching through the fence. Reaching through the fences that have held us back from enjoying the fullness of each other's beauty. Fences that have set boundaries of racism, class-ism, denominational-ism, nationalism etc . . . Fences of desease, imprisonment, and fear. Have they been erected by others, or are they self imposed? Fences. Can we be like my friends, the rebel lilies and push through the fences? You'll never be able to fully appreciate the beauty or fragrance of a flower until you hold it to your face.


sheila jo said...

Absolutely beautiful parallel! May we be like the lilies and push through the fences, freeing other people from their prisons as we were freed from ours!

sheila jo

Kevin Condon said...

I think this is beautiful and thought-provoking. I'll be back after I read a story to my grandchildren to talk about fences.

Kevin Condon said...

Good fences make good neighbors, Sandburg said. They also create cultural integrity around the individual, the church, the denomination, the nation. Each cultural node needs a few elements to protect it. One way of looking at it is that we need adaptability, stability, purification, integration and growth to survive. Adaptability is an openness to engage the world outside. The world is changing. We need to adapt to it as it does so. But, if we adapt too swiftly we grow unstable, losing our way and diluting our unique integrity as individuals or as members of a group with the same need for stability. Integration takes outside influences and fully digests them to create a stable internality which harmonizes fully with the other. But, integration must follow an ongoing process of purification, allowing the integration of only those elements that will allow positive growth, balanced and stable. When these four elements are present, there is growth and strength.

Now what about fences. They divide us. They also protect us. They are the semi-permeable membrane which intelligently modifies outside influences in a positive way allowing integration without pollution.

There's a lot of talk just now about pluralism in all things. The method is cultural relativistic. If we are to interact with others, we need to preserve differences, not erase them. Without the fences which divide us, we can't take the important time to adapt while maintaining stability, purify while keeping our integrity, and growth in a coordinated way to fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

Now I know you were talking critically of fences that allow alienation. Your intent was to facilitate love and understanding. But, do you see why we must maintain these differences? We shouldn't abandon reaching out to others, but we don't need them to drop their fence nor should we drop ours. Our barriers serve a purpose.

Achieving love and harmony is available only in Christ. Attempting to homogenize our differences in the name of closer fellow feeling is a trap. Blending and mixing our doctrine and values to achieve unity without Christ is a mess, a politically correct mess. Instead of lamenting the differences between us, lets keep the differences, but transcend them through the principal of a second element. Use the grace of God to bring us closer to each other. This principal, a higher principal of existence in Christ, may bring us a great result.

voixdange said...

I ascribe to the salad bowl theory of unity rather than the melting pot...which is what I think you are saying. My post was addressing negative barriers that people use to dismiss each other, such as unfair generalizations etc. I look at it like this. We are all God's gift to each other,we all have something to contribute, we all have something to learn. Anything that would deprive me of the experience of the gift of my brother or sister needs to be removed. I'm not talking about everyone singing the same song to the same tune. I'm talking about everyone learning to appreciate and enjoy the variety of songs that are among us.
Beyond that, you are talking to one of the sole White residents of an African American neighborhood. And what am I doing engaging in conversation with you, my dear Anglican brother? ha ha

voixdange said...

In addition, I would state that fences are really in effect barriers constructed within a society where people can't be trusted to behave responsibly and respectfully towards one another. They are artificial at best and give a false sense of security and control where in reality none or little truly exsist. Honestly, I feel only cattle truly need fences because they don't know where their boundaries lie. Its intersting that you used the Sandburg quote. The quote is also found in one of my Pastor's favorite poems by Robert Frost, Mending Wall. He uses it quite often when preaching about unity. It's about a man who helps to maintain the integrity of a stone fence at the insistence of a neighbor who states, " Good fences make good neighbors." While he mends the wall with the neighbor he wonders what it is that "doesn't love a wall, that wants it down." But at the insistence of his neighbor he continues to repair the wall year after year while asking himself what it is he is walling in or walling out. When I first moved to my neighborhood, people were amazed on many levels. But one of the things that touched me the most had to do with my window coverings. I can't stand to hide behind curtains. I want the sun coming in and I want to see out. The youngs girls from the community would come in and sit and look out at my view, which is of the street and our beautiful Gothic style church. One day one of the young ladies said to my surprise, "I love coming over to this house. Miss Laura doesn't cover up her windows. She wants to look out and see the world. She is not afraid."
No I am not afraid.

Constantine said...

Have you ever read or heard of the book “Miz Lil and the Chronicles of Grace” by Walter Wangerin Jr.? He’s a white Lutheran pastor who had a fairly protracted pastorate in an African-American neighborhood. His writing is absolutely beautiful (he’s worth reading for this reason alone) and the stories he recounts are deep and insightful. I’d bet a pretty penny (is there such a thing?) that you’d love this book.

Btw, what's the difference between salad bowl and melting pot unity?

voixdange said...

In a salad you bring together many different ingredients, but they all retain their original flavor. A cucumber is still a cucumber, etc... In a melting pot all of the ingredients are combined and cooked together over heat. The flavors meld and lose their uniqueness, the scum rises to the top and everything on the bottom gets burnt... Thanks for the book recommendation. I will check it out.

Constantine said...

I suspected as much as to the difference but wanted to hear it from the horses mouth. I love to cook, what a joy! (I make the meanest Jambalaya this side of the Mississippi), but the verbiage "scum rises to the top and everything on the bottom gets burnt" was quite colorful mi amiga. I see that you have hutzpah and I like that mucho.

Dan Trabue said...

I don't know what Sandburg said anything along those lines, but Robert Frost's Mending Wall contains that line:

He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Not that I'm subscribing to that philosophy myself.

Great entry, Ange.