Exploring the Social Imagination

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Pastoral Life and Mending Wall (s)

For years, one of my goals has been to achieve a “pastoral lifestyle”. This amuses some people especially in this face paced money grabbing world; but it’s true. I mean seriously, this is my dream. By “pastoral lifestyle” I mean that I want to create for myself a life that flows at a slower pace, a life removed from the concerns of the day-to-day world. A life of having the simplicity, charm, serenity, or other characteristics generally attributed to life in rural areas: pastoral scenery; the pastoral life. A life portraying or suggesting idyllically the life of shepherds of the countryside who in their past time enjoy literature, art, or music: pastoral poetry or a pastoral symphony of bleating lambs. Wouldn't that be nice...
There is a problem. Our 'free society' has made so many restrictions, rules, regulations, ordinances, and requirements topped off by permits, fees and licenses; burden even more by boundaries and borders that demarcate private property, property rights which come with property taxes and fences that such a pastoral life is nearly impossible.  Are we so afraid and selfish that we have to have fences. Robert Frost wrote a poem many years ago called Mending Walls. Robert Frost - Mending Wall (s)
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give ofence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Was Frost right about this, good fences make good neighbors? Was he criticizing this idea of walling up ourselves?  There is always two sides the every issue and even the issue of borders/fences. Frost wrote that while living the pastoral life on the family farm. He observed that even the pastoral life puts up fences... why? Is it to say don't bother me in my pastoral harmony? Probably. Is it that we don't trust our neighbors view of pastoral life ... 'good society'? Probably. Is it that we don't want to be held responsible for others... just ourselves? Probably. Is that we know at the end of the day, we will be held accountable for ourselves (no one will stand with us before God) and so we don't want to add to that situation 'our own judgement' any more than we have to or can avoid? Probably...

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