Monday, November 14, 2011

we build the wall to keep us free

I've been listening recently to this incredible musical based on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Why We Build the Wall (the song above) has been stuck in my head a lot in the last week or so. The premise is great and seems totally backwards -- we're building a wall to keep ourselves free. The lyrics say:

What do we have that they should want?
We have a wall to work upon!
We have work and they have none
And our work is never done
My children, my children
And the war is never won
The enemy is poverty
And the wall keeps out the enemy
And we build the wall to keep us free
That's why we build the wall
We build the wall to keep us free

And it makes me wonder -- where in our lives do we build these walls? Walls that seem to be keeping out an enemy and providing us with freedom but that are still closing in on us and keeping us small. Walls that give us something to focus on and something to keep ourselves busy, but walls that, in the end, don't get us what we really want.

I'm thinking of a friend of mine who works six bajillion hours a week. The "enemy" in this case is failure or disappointment, and working endless hours at his job (the "wall" in this case, too) is what keeps the enemy at bay. But even if he builds that wall, failure will be patiently waiting on the other side of it, looking for the smallest crack to climb inside.

I'm also thinking of myself -- in my case sometimes the enemy is "feeling too much" and shutting down those feelings so I don't have to be overwhelmed by them is my wall. It seems like the smart thing to do -- manage emotion so it can be tamed or mastered, but in truth, the more I try to sweep my feelings under the rug, the more they become protesters at Occupy Kate's Wall Street.*

If what we want is endless work with no payoff, we can have that. There will always be more fear. There will always be more walls to build. But what does it take to knock down the wall and start giving up the war in the first place? Acceptance. Recognizing that whatever's on the other side of the wall -- poverty, fear, disappointment, too many feelings -- it's always going to be there. And we can't pretend it away. So why not start to accept it so that we can let go of the concept of it being an enemy?

Easier said than done, I realize. But worth a shot -- unless you want to move to Hadestown, that is.

*I know, sorry, I couldn't resist.

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