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On Walls

February 11, 2016

‘Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.’

- Maya Angelou



Twelve thousand years ago, our Neolithic ancestors moved from a nomadic lifestyle to a domestic one. They built the first hearths, farms, and houses. The first societies, villages, communities. And, incidentally, the first walls.


The walls of Ilipinar were initially built to consolidate a common identity, to keep the roaming tribe in. But man soon discovered another use for walls: to keep other men out.


We built walls around cities; Uruk, Troy, Babylon. Around empires too; Chinese, Roman, Greek. Longer and higher, till we could even see them from space. They split neighborhoods, capitals, and countries. In 1961, one even split the planet. The more we built, the more we needed. To protect, defend, separate us from them.


Every man for himself. The only way to live together, it seemed, was not to. Never mind that the 21,196 kilometer Great Wall of China, the ‘longest cemetery on earth,’ cost more than one million lives to build. Or that the 155 kilometer Berlin Wall trapped twenty-two and a half million Germans in a communist state that trapped itself in too. Or that the Belfast Peace Walls, the Israeli West Bank Wall, the US-Mexican Border Wall, the Korean 38th Parallel, the barriers of Bengal, the Alphaville compounds of São Paulo, brought neither security nor peace.


We kept on building them, and today, we are building more. In Spain and Greece. Bulgaria, Hungary, Estonia and Ukraine. North of Calais and South of Sweden. Every man for himself, and the devil take the four thousand one hundred and four people who died at those walls in the past year. We could not live with them. Now can we live with ourselves?


We built these walls to keep them out, and now we have built ourselves in. ‘There is no fighting or hatred or desire’ here, ‘but the absence of fighting or hatred or desire also means the opposites do not exist either. No joy, no communion, no love.’


I refuse to believe we were meant to live without love.


Contrary to popular belief, Charles Darwin never used the term ‘survival of the fittest.’ He observed that human babies were among the most vulnerable on the planet, and that our instinct for compassion was what allowed us to survive as a species; caretaking shaped our social structures, we reared more offspring, we flourished. Mothers chewed food and placed it into the mouths of their children; the earliest kisses in history.


Darwin argued for ‘the greater strength of the social or maternal instincts than that of any other instinct or motive.’ Walls did not ensure our survival. Love did.


‘We are all human beings, individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong - and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others' souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.’

- Haruki Murakami


We were never meant to live through walls. We built them with fear, now let us bring them down, with kisses.


'The first kiss.
The sloppy kiss. The peck.
The sympathy kiss. The backseat smooch. The we
shouldn't be doing this kiss. The but your lips
taste so good kiss. The bury me in an avalanche of tingles kiss.
The I wish you'd quit smoking kiss.
The I accept your apology, but you make me really mad
sometimes kiss. The I know
your tongue like the back of my hand kiss.


The I'll love you through a brick wall kiss.
Even when I'm dead, I'll swim through the Earth,
like a mermaid of the soil, just to be next to your bones.

- Jeffrey McDaniel, The Archipelago of Kisses


It will be messy and costly. It will hurt. Force us to sacrifice and compromise, cover us in rubble and dirt. But if we dare do it, if we dare bring down those walls, we may just find wonderful things behind them.


We may find someone to warm our feet at night, and leave roses on our bed. Zip the back of our dress and clasp on our bracelets. Reach the glasses on the highest kitchen shelf, uncork and pour in the wine. Toast, and slowly dance us across the living room to the end of the song. Then, once all the walls are down, once the dust has cleared, stand by us and share the view.


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