Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Building a Big Wall

"Endless and Open" 
- a wilderness place -

When I was a child I hung out with a pretty creative bunch of neighborhood kids. The thing I remember most about those childhood years was the great fortress we constructed in a nearby wooded area. We built a tree house that served as our “headquarters,” around which we built a rather imaginative protective wall of tree trunks, rocks, branches and scraps of wood. We would “pretend” that the wall kept out the wild beasts that roamed in the forest and protected us from invasion by those other kids from neighboring streets.

It was fun to play in that fantasy world as a child but obviously we all grew up, became adults, and ultimately realized that the tree house fortress surrounded by the protective wall was just “child’s play.”

Yesterday when I heard Donald Trump’s rather ludicrous proposal to build a big wall at the Mexican border to protect us from all those undesirable immigrants, I thought about the fantasy world of my childhood days. I suppose that the thing that bothers me most about this proposal is that many people actually applauded the idea - after all Mr. Trump is supposedly a “frontrunner” among other Republican presidential hopefuls.

In one sense I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised that so many of my fellow citizens  might imagine that protective walls will keep us safe and secure from undesirable aliens- after all this is an idea that lies at the very core of the way lots of folks approach their everyday lives in today’s popular culture.   

Many commentators on American culture have concluded that we are indeed a society of “rugged individualists” – many think of themselves as separated from, often better than and entitled to more than “different others.” Many of us only “hang out” with people who are similar to us, living within the protective walls of our own isolated ideologies.

And yet when we live within a protective fortress surrounded by a “big wall” of separation we are, in fact, living in a fantasy world, it is a world of child’s play. As I see it, lots of people today live in a world of delusion and think they are actually living in the real world.

The Buddha taught that “delusion” was a terrible “poison” that brings on some of our greatest suffering as human beings. We are “deluded” when we imagine that we are separated from and isolated from other beings because there is no separation. Everything and everyone “is” a flow of relationship, a web of dynamic interconnection. When we create walls of division we are only “playing life” – pretending to be something other than what we really are.

Yesterday after I read about that “big wall” Mr. Trump wants to build, I also came across this wonderful Taoist piece of wisdom. Chuang Tzu once wrote:

One night Chuang Tzu dreamed about being a butterfly,
 a happy butterfly unaware of being Chuang Tzu. 
Suddenly he awoke drowsily, Chuang Tzu again.

And he could not tell whether it was Chuang Tzu who had dreamt the butterfly
or the butterfly dreaming Chuang Tzu.

Every day I hear stories about so many people in this country who are unhappy and angry at their lives nowadays- that’s probably why they want to build those walls, so that they can have greater security and lead richer and more fulfilled lives. But building walls of any kind will have just the opposite effect. Living within the delusion of separation is toxic and poisonous to the human spirit leading only to deeper pain and greater suffering

Maybe it's time for people to “grow up.”

Some may say that we need to unlock doors and open windows to one another, I say we don’t need to open any windows or unlock any doors because there are no walls to begin with.

The mystic Sufi poet once said:

They say there is a window from one heart to another,
 but how can there be a window where no wall remains?

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