Thursday, April 22, 2010


A couple of years ago, my wife and I had the good fortune to meet a young Czeck sculptor who had traveled at his own expense to Key West, where he was in the process of creating two mahogany busts that would be placed on the Florida coastline facing Cuba, the perceived ideological adversary of the United States. The completed sculptures would be a "gateway," he told me, designed to invite mutual respect and peaceful dialogue between the two countries.  He also stated that, upon completion of the two sculptures in Key West, he would be traveling to Cuba for the erection of identical gateway sculptures on its northern shore, facing the United States.  He anticipated that the gateway projects in  the United States and Cuba would be followed by trips to other antagonistic countries, such as China and Taiwan, where he would use his art to foster peace and better relationships among peoples and nations.

Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of this compassionate and idealistic young sculptor, and most people in this country have surely never heard of him.  As an artist, however, he was doing what artists often do best; he was summoning us to reconsider the way we think about things. He was asking us to pay attention to the divisions we sow and leave unattended; to reconsider the illusions that stoke our nationalism and xenophobia; and to move forward as a people with a common ancestry and a shared future.

Since meeting this young artist, I have begun to question the world's obsession with boundaries.  One cannot dispute, of course, that some territorial boundaries are necessary for the preservation of social order; most of us do not want to find the neighbor's livestock devouring the remainder of our gardens after the deer have had their daily fill.  But what about the fear-based intolerance that often stands behind these boundaries -- the intolerance of other people's race, religion, culture, or political ideology?  Is there any justification for separating one human heart from another?

Perhaps it is time for everyone, nations and individuals alike, to drop the arbitrary, fear-laden boundaries that poison relationships.  Maybe it is time to join the young Czeck sculptor in the building of gateways -- gateways to the arts, which can teach us about the creative, regenerative spirit of the human heart; gateways to other cultures, which can reveal the common threads that hold humanity together; and gateways to the natural world, which can dissolve prejudice and return us to a place of gratitude.

Some years ago, I stumbled across an interesting quotation, which I now know came from the book of Psalms: "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." What struck me then about this quotation -- and strikes me now -- is the iconoclastic notion that boundaries, notwithstanding our conventional wisdom, do not always protect us.  They may, if fact, be barriers to what we are seeking.


  1. What an enriching essay on boundaries!

    Boundaries, as you say, may serve a purpose, but boundaries can be bridged and become thresholds to new beginnings, connections, adventures. It truly does depend on our mindset doesn't it?

    And, again as you say, boundaries of the mind, heart, family, nation have all been erected based on fear. Only love can conquer fear and thus dissolve all boundaries ... and each of us can start right now right where we are, for it is an 'inside' job.

    Thank you for such an inclusive post.

  2. Good fences make good neighbours, for sure!

    One of the best books I've read on the subject of territory and boundaries (amongst many other things) is Michael Ondaatje's novel 'The English Patient'. Remember the scene where Almasy traces the topography of Katharine's naked body?

  3. Don't you think bloggers are a small gateway or bridge over those boundaries...or at least a start. I know for me, blogging with people from other countries, makes me feel more like a citizen of the 'world'!

  4. I agree with you, Wanda. Connecting with people who share our interests, especially the people in other countries, is a life-affirming experience. We need to do all that we can to break out of the small boundaries of our own lives.

  5. You gave me food for thought, George, as when we start to think of boundaries, we find so many. Among nations, races, workmates, but also in our own soul and heart. People usually don't want to build gateways because of either fear or selfishness, there is a wide range of reasons, and it's always a gift to meet someone receptive.