Do Good Fences Really Make Good Neighbors?


“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”.

Just what is it, that doesn’t love a wall? What has a fence got to do with a neighbor? And what exactly is the correlation between the “goodness” of a fence to that of a neighbor? Answering the second question, everything. To be frank, the title itself sounds positively bonkers, no offence to Robert Frost, of course. Bonkers, but still very relevant in today’s uncertain times. Elaborating my earlier statement, “Fence” indeed shares a long history and relation with the “Neighbors”. Good neighbors respect each other’s property. Good Farmers, for example, maintain their fences so as to prevent their livestock from wandering into neighboring farms. In fact, it’s the mark of an honest farmer to avoid such mishaps. And the way he cares to ensure the fence, reflects his mentality and also in a way his character. Now, this is the general perception, not my own opinion.

Nature herself knows no boundaries. She longs to be free and unbound. Fence is merely a nuisance to Nature, nothing can truly divide it apart. But, is there really any need for a fence? We could very well exist without a fence, a wall. However, some of our entrenched neighbors rely on ancestral/patriarchal ties to maintain the solid barrier of stone. Their traditionalist mentality, lifestyle depends on the survival of this fence/wall.

Nations in this world are limited by fences. Source: Google Images

Now, in my mind, I can see many different forms a fence can take and how those neighbors can be interpreted. But mainly, there can be three. First, a fence can exist between two close friends, they can be related, not related or in love; it doesn’t really matter. Here, the fence subsists in the form of personal boundaries between two people, no matter how close there are always some things which we do not want to share with others, even with people we are closest to. These fences are necessary in a way. Second, comes fences or should I say, walls between two different homes, two different districts, two different cities, two different towns, two different states, two different countries and two different continents.

What’s funny though is that in the first case the boundaries were intangible, but people generally avoid crossing them, in order to keep personal spats, ugly arguments and confrontations to a minimum. However, in the second case, the boundaries are very clearly quite visible, but people still continue to emphasize them. They continue emphasizing to the point that it becomes ridiculous. One doesn’t need to tip toe around another person to avoid arguments, because if we are doing that, then we do not really consider the other person a true friend. Being a true friend means acceptance of others, flaws and all. Also, it involves always giving your friend an unabashed, honest opinion when it really matters. On the other hand, continuous emphasis of boundaries existing between different places is a foolish endeavor, not to mention, unrequired. This is the reason why despite of no small amount of world peace talk, wars still exist, why wars are still seen as an option to settle matters. Boundaries between neighboring countries are often ( read ‘always’) made a spectacle of. I hope this irony is not lost to my readers.

Thirdly, the least expressed one, is the divisions created on the basis of races, creed, castes and economic conditions among people. Basically, all mortal factors which are used to discriminate against different groups create divisions among people who were essentially born the same, as humans. Discrimination and Prejudice, splits people and once again acts as fences between two people who may or may not be each other’s neighbors. These differences creates problems and long standing complications in time lead to unnecessary bloodshed.

While keeping a little distance won’t hurt anyone, everyone needs some space after all, then does that mean a fence isn’t even needed? Between two people, sure. Personal boundaries must be kept in mind when conversing with associates and acquaintances. However, among friends sometimes personal boundaries must be skipped in order to reach out to others and resolve emotional issues. But, what about the fence between two countries? The wall created between their native people? Is that too, required? Frankly speaking, no. But many thick-skinned traditionalists share and associate their very identity and reason for existence on this wall. Even the mere idea of surviving without it, is unimaginable. To them, both of their survivals are symbiotic with each other.

This in no way justifies any form of prejudiced and discriminating behavior. Because such way of behaving is only done and carried out by people who lack self-confidence themselves, feel inadequate, or are seeking validation from their co-instigators or perhaps seek to confirm with popular and self-righteous opinions.

In summation, I have reached the conclusion that while fences might make good neighbors, that isn’t necessarily for the better since fences between neighbors aren’t required in the first place. This is because where there’s trust, there’s transparency. Perhaps, also because sometimes, a leap of faith holds the key to all your questions.

Maybe, we’ll never find the key to our answers, then again perhaps there is no solution. And there never was a question in the first place. Maybe the answer was staring at us in the face the entire time and we never even noticed.

Well? The river is wild after all, if you can’t control it, then embrace the chaos.