Lines

We are the arbiters of lines. Moreover, we are the creators of them.

In nature, lines aren’t permanent; when they do appear they are jagged and fluid, ebbing and flowing with the tides of elemental whims. Mountains can be craggy or rolling, depending on their age and origin. Bodies of water expand and contract and nature adjusts to its transformations. Trees rise from the ground, but their paths to the sky are not straight nor symmetrical. Simply put the natural world is in constant flux, making static lines irrelevant. The geometry of nature is variable, even in its loose claims of solidity.

People, however, resist change. We crave stability and definitions. We abhor alterations to the world we live in. Look at all that we build. Straight lines are seen as desirable. Smooth surfaces are the mandate of manufactured things. We are soothed when we see a structure filled with right angles and flat tops to set objects on. Nature, it seems, runs afoul of our needs.

One might say we crave order. I would say we crave control.

We make lines where none are needed to satisfy our discomfort. This obsession stretches beyond nature.

Borders, arbitrary lines that denote territory, are created to imply ownership by a group of humans in a particular area. Imagined demarcations that cause people to fight over them in the hopes that victory will help them occupy more land that previously had never had ownership for the millions of years Earth’s existence. More lives have been lost over territory that people have coveted than any other cause of death with the exception of disease. All because we made lines.

It gets even more granular than that. We create boundaries between religions. Between races. Between sexuality, gender, wealth, education, and so many more lines we manufacture to cut things up a little finer to push away the fear we have.

These are societal constructs and they do a disservice to us as a species. We have more capacity for love and empathy than nearly any of our fellow inhabitants of our planet. Yet we devise ways to cordon ourselves off from one another, all for the sake of what we perceive as safety.

What is happening at the southwestern border of the United States is an example of our compulsion for lines run amok. The humans who made their way to a place that screamed opportunity from their locus of fear now despair because they’ve had their children taken from them, with little hope of them seeing them again. These people made the grave error of crossing a line in a desert in the hopes for their own safety. A border created by us. People died for that line. These travelers also committed other violations of lines of our own design: skin color, education level, wealth to name a few. These asylum seekers inspire fear in folks that steadfastly believe that these lines keep them safe, despite all of the data to the contrary. To occupants within those lines, it’s irrelevant; they’re told it’s so, and nothing is more comforting than reassurance, true or otherwise.

The trouble with boundaries is that they not only keep others out, they confine you. Physically for certain, but also mentally. If you can’t see anyone who is different than you, you cannot learn from them or understand them. You’ve imprisoned yourself in ignorance. Lined in comfort and isolation.

True empathy knows no such lines. It is boundless, and is to be given freely. But those who have constructed invisible walls due to fear and lack of control need to be enlightened of the virtue of the natural state of the universe. Caring is good and moral. Constraining any one because you are fearful of them as a result of misinformation and misplaced distrust harms us all.

We are the arbiters of lines. Moreover, we can be the erasers of them.

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One thought on “Lines

  1. Human beings are certainly capable of creating lines to divide instead of to unite. I love the last line. Cornelius Castoriadis has some great quotes on “The Imaginary Society.” This reminded me of his work. Thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing.

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