Boundaries are both barriers and frontiers. Even the singularly minded geese poised in flocks upon the icy surface of the river have respectfully maintained a distance between themselves. The anticipatory flight southward naturally preserves their coopertive ambition but always with a delicate barrier between them. There is little of the most compelling unanimity which defeats inveterate division.
Transgression of boundaries has historically provoked some of the most pitiful results. Apart from the arcane political fringes which often haven’t anything more than self-proclaimed identity underlying them, as frequently the sole basis of private entitlement to the preservation of such limitations is the legal fiction called ownership. One need only contemplate the invention of condominiums to appreciate the absence of material truth to sustain the modern concept of “a fee simple in the air”. It is a precept indisputably remote from the original image of a Deed of Land so dear to our western heritage (though otherwise no more authentic). Added to either of these current legal fashions is the more disturbing acknowledgement that by more abstruse enterprise our ancestors invaded North America and overtook the lands then “belonging” collectively to the native population.
Admission of present reality prohibits speculation that these prejudices of entitlement to proprietary rights will anytime soon be modified to reinvent the past. What may however surface unwittingly is a fuller appreciation of the ephemeral nature of these hardened demarcations. Technically for example there is nothing untoward about proposing universality, a project which, while clearly adventurous, challenges only the privilege of some in exchange for possible benefit for plurality in a world of diminishing separateness. Colonies of bees for example have survived for centuries without the necessity of boundaries between themselves.
It would appear that the only excuse for accepting these fictions of boundaries is enhancement of a select few. And if one similarly yearns for the nervous vigour of profiting from hard work (as though its manifestation were solely establishment of boundaries) then I question the depth of one’s thinking. All too soon it will become mockingly apparent – as it has no doubt already done to Steve Jobs and as it will equally soon appear to Elon Musk – that no amount of distinction (whether substantive or conceptual) will preserve any one of us from an unrelated and unpredictable end. The British history of pedigree and divine right is notably marked by violence of beheading and incomparably injudicious religious pretence and contortion. To imagine that the fictional boundaries isolated them from these derisive conclusions is misguided and hopelessly miscalculated. Their respective boundaries preserved them from nothing but a mortifying periphery.
Yet within the scope of our present mandate upon the surface of the earth we continue to honour these fabrications, some poetically as Frost did in his popular rhyme. There are too the less metaphorical boundaries which each of us, like our friends skating with their webbed feet upon the fractional surface of the frozen river, establish round about us. These intellectual and psychological margins I consider to be less preposterous than the storybook legal creations.
Invasion of personal limits is to be undertaken only with equanimity. More often than not we haven’t any insight upon the provocation and result of imposition. Application of courtesy (or the pursuit of comprehension) is a minimal requisite. Nothing in our inherent constitution empowers us to invade another’s personal boundaries. This confession – like the confrontation of legal fiction – is similarly delimiting.
by Robert Frost
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 offense.
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.’