There is a book called “The Revenge of Geography” that talks about the natural size of states and the artificial boundaries that were put there by the history of human groupings. Places like the European plain that runs from the North Sea to the Ural Mountains. It is curious that this is the place of much historic bloodshed as different nations look for security and growth, as there is no clear boundary. The author talks about land as a “fixed area” and if you’re not expanding you are shrinking. Well, there is a lot more about that in both the book and history, but I want to pick something else in the book as a point of interest.
One of the points in the issue of growth or shrinking is this bit about borders. While there are reasons for the placement of a border, that made sense at the time, like the ability to tax and control a group that resided there, there is also the knowledge that the border, and its control, allowed for the management of the goods and people that cross that checkpoint to get from one side to the other. This is a topic worth some exploration.
We all have boundaries. It is like the point in the book, that some are “natural” and some are “artificial”. The idea of “my home” is similar to “my space” as a child. The boundary is there for a sense of stability in the relationship. We used to take long drives to visit relatives and the seam in the seat was the line that the sibling was not to cross under penalty of expostulations of outrage. The same can be said of certain people that I know about spiders or snakes. The boundary is “not even the evidence of a snake shall be seen”. It is the same for mice. The point is that if you think about it, there are all manner of boundaries both natural and imposed. The intimacy moment of a couple in tears over the loss of a child prematurely is a sacred thing that is to be respected, until there is permission to join them, but then only in tears as well. This is the checkpoint of a boundary. It is this point, of permission, that is the issue.
The author points out that the boundaries of a country, where they are not imposed by a mountain or an ocean, are about the crossing of them. In the realm of commerce, travel on vacation, or to get to the next place by going through your space, the question of walls or checkpoints is at hand. The point of the author is that “growing countries” build roads and “aging or fearful” countries build walls. To be certain, there is an expectation of trust and mutual benefit with the connecting of this border. Like that of Canada and the US, there is still a border, but also a fairly free one to travel and until recently you barely needed a passport to visit. During the “cold war” the restrictions on getting into the East Block Nations in Europe were highly regulated. The point is that while the peoples of that region were of similar or even common heritage and values, there were prohibitions imposed on them by others. Sometimes with great hardships.
So here it is then. There is a way to tell, if you are interested in looking, that is the same for us. When healthy and growing, we build bridges and roads into ourselves along the common borders of our friends and the newly acquainted. When we are fearful, we build walls and put in checkpoints that restrict and control. If your friends start to produce narrower points of connectivity there is a question about if it is them or you that made that necessary. Perhaps you got too near a sensitive place, causing a threat. Perhaps it was a revealed jealousy about some other travels that your recent telling of revealed in them. Perhaps it was that you could go and they were kept from it, or perhaps it was that you went with another friend and they were left out, for the first time…. Perhaps it was the choice of a new set of behaviors that they are just not comfortable with and so there is a new barrier where before it was easy travel.
The human psyche is far too complex to expand this into all manner of application, but consider this when you are thinking about the common things of your relationships, and then the uncommon things. Who you think of when you go out for dinner with friends, and who you don’t. Who you call when there is a family drama or crisis, a bad diagnosis, a death out of the expected, a death even if expected, a celebration and a failure of trust… Each of these, and the list is endless, produces a specific and a general set of friends for the aid and comfort that is needed and called on for support and caring. Each is drawn on for different reasons and capabilities, and at different stages in the grief or the healing. But each are called, or you realize that you have none to call at all. Even then you still callout, in a vain attempt at connection.
In a different book called “Hard Survival” the author talks about the survivors of many different circumstances, but there is a common theme to many that is found here, they all thought “I will never be seen again”. So, there it is. I have an identity. I am someone. Of value and of interest, and worthy of discovery. Come then, let us connect and set out on the journey of discovery of this identity, yours and mine. A discovery of the adventure and the surprise and the fears. I overheard a couple of friends talking about marriage, when I was young, and the one said to the other, ”Never marry anyone if you haven’t been caught in the rain without an umbrella”. Meaning that you will discover their hidden identity when you get drenched. It is part of the discovery, and where the boundary gets set.
It doesn’t take much of a push from here, then. You already know if you’re putting in new roads or walls, and with whom. You know if they are justified or if they are signals of a “cold war” of fears and the need for the security of a wall of protection. You may simply realize that you have not built enough roads through a patch of your “wilderness” area, that it needs to be opened up for discovery by some new friends that would love to be on that journey, with you as a guide. Sometimes it is that you are needing to go and build a bridge, and to discover that hidden paradise of another persons story. The rich vistas of the bit of discovery that can only be seen with the listening to a person that feels safe enough to do the telling. It is in these complicated journeys and the rarified heights of the “security mountains” that the soul of a friend is exposed, to a friend in deed. The hidden views, the fresh streams, the quiet but steady winds. The exhaustion and the thirst from having made the trek. The refreshing of a short stop to take it all in. The valley of vulnerability. It is the story that wants to be told. It has its own mission to be told and fights to find wings. That is the tension that is within. The tension of the soaring and the fears. It has happened to me, on my journey. I suppose it has happened to you. Perhaps it is time to take a walk on that path with a friend, and show them a vista that is worth the visit. Perhaps you will both learn something for having set out on the adventure.
In the “world” of our making we all set boundaries and we all need them. What we also need is a bit of the humanity that will allow our rich treasures to be explored by those willing to risk the peril of the adventure. The knowledge that some need to stay at the “basecamp” while a few others come to the summit with you, is sometimes hard. But some cannot make that journey, and some should not. This is part of our self-limiting. We want them all to make that journey to the “security mountain” with us, to share in its telling and its raw power of vulnerability and they will not be gentle with our valuable things. They refuse to let themselves be second, even for a few minutes of the telling of your story, and they break the solace of the moment. I have done it to others, not wanting to be left behind. I have trundled on, numb to the reality I was a blight on the sacred and the disturber of the pristine. Perhaps you as well.
So, even that can be the “security mountain” that you reveal to others. To the ones that think you couldn’t have been the goat at the party, telling them that you were is a revelation. It is also a permission. A shared vulnerability that begets vulnerability. A story for another day, a look of knowing from across the room some years later. A memory of a vista and the knowledge that the path to see it was hard. There are no paved roads and tour busses here. Only shared cups of sorrow and the telling of them. This is the patina of a good relationship. It is the limp of a journey that costs. It is not free to visit the “security mountains” but to view the vistas of a valued friend is worth the cost of admission. Go and see if there is a need to build a road to base camp. Take a friend to the mountains.
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