Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tearing Down Fences

It was an old, four-strand, barbed wire fence. From the look of the mostly-rotted posts that held up the rusty wire it should have been easy for my son and I to tear down. But when it comes to fences, whether constructed in relationships or built to separate portions of land, appearances can be deceiving. Removing a fence can take even longer than it did to build it in the first place.
One difficulty arose in removal of the fence because it was obscured by and enmeshed in the undergrowth that had sprung up over the years. In some cases, the wire was actually embedded in a tree branch. In other places the bottom strand of wire was buried in the ground among tree roots. To deal with the fence we had to clear some of the brush and excavate around some trees. But that was not the hardest part. Even after the barbed wire was carefully wound into wicked-looking wreaths, there were the posts to deal with. Some were easy, almost disintegrating in our hands. But others were like extremely stubborn sentries, defiantly resisting all but the most strenuous efforts. It was exhausting work. After hours of exertion we were successful in removing only about 25 metres of fencing.
I have built many "fences" in my life, or in some cases allowed them to be constructed. These were not physical fences, but they are nonetheless real. Most of them are hidden from view, having been overgrown over the years by the "scrub brush" that fills in each day. Despite obscurity, my fences remain haunting reminders of the past need, perceived or real, to have them in place. Initially, fences of all kinds are erected to keep something important in, or something dangerous out. They are intended to mark off territory, inevitably restricting both the freedom to come in and go out. Robert Frost once said, "Do not ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up". But even when any initial purpose has long since disappeared, the fence still stands, blocking, or at least impeding, access to what lies beyond. Long after their usefulness has dissipated, they remain a testimony to past insecurity.
While it may be true, as Robert Frost wrote in his poem "Mending Wall", that, "good fences make for good neighbors", it is also true that fences can constrain the growth of those kept in as well as those fenced out. "Fear is the highest fence". Sometimes, I have left the fences in place far too long, failing to tackle the task of tearing them down, perhaps out of laziness, or most likely because of fear.
Parkinson's disease, or most any other disease, can easily become a fence. Uncertain as to how others may respond to its visible symptoms, it can have the effect of keeping people at the perimeter of one's life, protecting the vulnerability that one so often feels. As I anticipate the increased challenges of the disease, I realize that it will take increasingly fierce and focused effort to clear away the daily distractions and tear down the fences that limit my freedom, and that of others; freedom to confront reality with all its pain and promise; freedom to live as fully as possible.
It is time to tear down some fences.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Bob. Yes, I'll do that because I want my life to be full of God's purposes.
    It is my honor to be one of the WPC Ambassadors with YOU.
    - Jin Kyoung Choae -