(About a 3 minute read)
It seems to be an exceptionally well recognized fact — albeit still very much a curious one — that most teens and adults have built psychological walls around themselves.
Growing up, I thought that was such a common thing for older people to do that I recall thinking walling yourself off was the mark of an adult — was what distinguished an adult from a child just as much as their size. And — in a way — maybe that really is true.
What do most of us think of our walls?
Well, I think most of us see them as necessary. As required protection in a world riven by emotionally maundering people, by con artists, and by worse. Furthermore, many of us — maybe even most of us — have not built our walls around naked prison cells. Instead, we have built our walls around gardens.
Gardens in which our emotions, values, and imaginings quietly flourish ungnawed on by the world’s many predators. It’s in our gardens we sit in the cool of the evening and reflect on the fact we both love our spouse and the new person at the office, that we have lost compassion for our chronically troubled teen, that we are lying to our church group by pretending we are not questioning theses days, that we daily grow kinder to others. All the things we would not easily admit to others — though we might admit some of them.
I comparatively often come across poets speaking of our walls as “prisons” from which they imagine themselves desperate to escape. The image is easily common enough to be considered a proper cliché.
What usually strikes me about such poems is that the poet is almost always waiting. Waiting for someone to show up and tear down his or her walls via the thrilling power of their love for the poet.
Of course, that makes no sense outside of fantastic poetry.
In a truer poem — or, for that matter, in real life itself — one discovers that the universal solvent for walls of any thickness, any hardness, any substance — any walls that have ever been built in history — the solvent is loving, not being loved. To love, is to dissolve all barriers to you passionately bursting with life.
It is crucial, here, to understand that we are speaking of unconditional love. There are several kinds of love — and none of them, in my opinion, should be scorned — but most kinds are indistinguishable in practice from emotional dependency.
In terms of our walls, they are the equivalent of a cautious — a very cautious — and limited sally forth from our castle to raid for crumbs, before turning around and darting right back home again. They are compromises between love and our desire to protect love — and the desire to protect usually dominates, in my experience.
Very few of us are free spirits. Genuinely free spirited folks are so rare that I sometimes think they are purely mythical. But now and then you come across one anyway. When you do, you will usually note they have breached their walls here and there.
They have not torn them all down. Who does that? But they have punched holes in them. Free spirits can range from dumb to genius, from good to bad, creative to dull, but they sure have balls. By the gods, they have balls.