In her living room easy chair she lowered the book into her lap and stared at him across the room. “Ted?” she asked, but he was so absorbed in his favorite television show that he didn’t even hear her. “Ted?” she asked again. And… nothing. A sudden tsunami of grief washed over her heart and she wailed aloud, “I don’t understand why you don’t love me!” Startled back into his own living room Ted fumbled and dropped the remote, snapping back at her: “WHAT THE HELL?!!!”
Without anyone intending it, walls can grow up between people. It is amazing the vast array of seemingly harmless things that can become walls between people: Television shows, resentments, hobbies, grief, diet, devotions, points of view, anger. A move to another part of the country used to bring about the wall of physical distance, but with the wonder of today’s email, tweets, texts and Skype that wall has been robbed of many of its bricks. The thing about walls is that while they keep others out and at a distance from our heart, they also keep us IN and isolated. The death of Eddie Aikau’s brother, Gerry, created such pain in Eddie that one of his siblings observed, “There was a wall between us, and that wall was grief. Eddie was on the other side of the wall, in a place where we could not reach him.”
Some walls are accidental and unintended, while others are deliberately erected. In some ways, a “tradition” can be thought of as an intentional wall. In the beginning, a tradition comes about as a way of encircling and preserving something important, a way of being able to relive an important insight or event through the remembrance of it. Through the re-enactment of the tradition we touch the original event, and are reminded of what the ancestors came to understand by having gone through that event. The purpose of a tradition is to preserve, not to exclude, and in fact some traditions morph as they incorporate new insights and new events into that embrace of preservation.
What makes a wall good or bad is dependent upon the reason for erecting it. Is its purpose to keep others out, or to preserve something important so that future generations can touch it and grow? What about the walls that you have erected in your life? Could some of them come down now? Or are you adding more bricks to them? Do you like life behind your wall?