Thursday, August 22, 2013


The wall was one of Man's earliest, most useful, and most versatile inventions. Walls of branches and twigs and later solid wood enabled him to construct shelters against wind, rain, and cold, and thus were homes created. He soon learned walls of stone could be an effective way of keeping enemies at bay, and used them to construct fortresses and castles and to surround his towns. Clever species that he was (and is), it didn't take him long to realize that what kept people out could also keep them in, and dungeons and prisons were born.

So, walls are essential to and an integral part of our society and civilization. But walls can be constructed of things other than stone and brick and wood. We humans use our thoughts and fears to construct non-tangible walls within our minds and hearts which can be as formidable as any stone.

Our inner walls are built, for our own reasons, primarily to protect us from something, or to safeguard memories. But frequently, as with walls of stone, once having built an inner wall, we find it difficult or almost impossible to tear it down. Habits are walls forming narrow corridors. Some are relatively low and easy to step over, but others become so high they become like mazes from which it is impossible to escape.

Robert Frost said “Something there is that doesn't love a wall,” and when it comes to the walls created by our minds, he speaks the absolute truth, and far too many of them are counterproductive and stunting.

We each build our own walls for our own purposes—almost always defensive—and while I cannot speak for anyone's but my own, I've built far more than I really need, and many I wish now I had never built, or could tear down. But once built they are, for better or worse, part of us and we seem unwilling or unable to dismantle them. So many of my own walls I built for my own perceived self-protection. I built one to protect me from personal rejection, only to find that it also kept me from reaching out when I really wanted to. My self-built walls have constrained me so that I long ago became incapable of expressing myself as I would so very much like to do in social situations. I do not dance. I cannot allow myself to verbally shout or whistle or wave my arms to show enthusiasm while all around me are doing so. I clap loudly, but my body has fused with my wall.

When I was younger, I built innumerable walls to protect myself from a variety of real and perceived hurts, one of the largest being to avoid being hurt by those with whom I wanted a romantic relationship. That particular wall is now largely moot, like a Roman aqueduct, since I have been aged out of any possibility for the kind of personal relationship I, the eternal optimist and dreamer, still long for.

Some inner walls are rather like coral reefs in that they just grow by themselves. Personal attitudes and preferences too easily solidify into prejudices and intolerance of those whose attitudes and preferences do not match our own. As this type of wall grows higher, we reach the point of being incapable of seeing over or around it.

People build walls to hide behind. For far too many years, gays and lesbians not only locked themselves in the closet but then walled up the door from the inside. These walls are finally—if still not easily—broken through, and the closet doors thrown open.

Walls serve a wide variety of purposes for each of us. But we need more doors.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (


Kage Alan said...

Reading this feels like a prelude to something bigger to come. You've pointed out the walls and the flaws in their construction as well as relating them back to yourself. However, what will you do to remedy the hindrance they've created in now allowing you to reach out?

Dorien/Roger said...

I use my words as small chisels. Perhaps someday...