Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Berlin Wall


Twenty-five years ago today, the Berlin Wall came down.

I don't know what you were doing, but I had quit school the year before and was just about to drop out of community college, too. I was living in a three-bedroom house with six other people and tending bar. I was 18 and clueless as I watched the wall dividing a country come down. It was momentous in the truest sense of the word, and even in my ridiculous 18-year-old stupor I could recognize that things were changing.

I cannot compare the walls that individuals put up with the Berlin Wall, not straight across. The Berlin Wall cast millions into poverty and starvation and allowed others to prosper and move forward. It represented all of the worst parts of humanity - captivity, scarcity, cruelty, discrimination - and embodied the worst characteristics of countries around the globe, specifically apathy, for far too long.

But in a way the walls that we build within separate us from the things and people we need just as if they were made of mortar and brick. A wall prevents us from acting when we see injustice. A wall lets us say, "Well, that's not my problem." It dehumanizes and diminishes anyone on the other side, including the parts of ourselves that are fragile and easily damaged.

I won't say that at 18 I realized that I had built walls and then they magically disintegrated and I lived a fulfilled life. Rather the opposite. It takes a strong person to operate in the world without his or her own personal fortress. Mine has been, at times, impenetrable. But this week in yoga, coincidental to the full moon and the change in the weather which has literally sent me spinning (I am something of a human barometer and am overly affected by moving weather systems, so I often suffer migraines and vertigo when it is especially beautiful or windy outside. It's horribly inconvenient but makes me more reliable by far than most newscasters. But I digress.) we have been talking about courage. The small moments of tremendous courage that it takes sometimes to do even the simplest of things.

Knocking down walls, Berlin or otherwise, requires such bursts of monumental courage, sometimes all at once, and sometimes over a period of years, or a lifetime. The point is that these small moments chip away at the wall and let everything in you shine, within and without. So I continue to chip at my formidable walls with small moments of courage.

What walls are  you chipping away at?


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