Saturday, January 29, 2005

Of Fences and Freedom

From a human perspective, one of the smartest things we did before acquiring our latest batch of Labradors was to fence in part of our backyard. We viewed the fence as protection from dangers outside: the state highway that runs past our front door; stray dogs and other animals that roam the rural community in which we live; wayward bullets of hunters who troll bordering farmlands. We put up the fence, and it's an attractive fence at that, to keep our dogs safe. We established boundaries for Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge because we loved them and desired their good.

I don't think our Lab kids understand.
  • They see the fence as confining, though they have at least half-an-acre of manicured, tree-shaded, nature-rich land on which to roam.
  • They see the world beyond the fence as vastly more interesting than home territory.
  • They see the fence as a barrier to fulfilling their dreams.

How do I know?

Ridge habitually trots the fence line when he's outdoors. Short of that, he'd prefer to lounge indoors, cross-legged of course, on the berber carpet in front of our woodstove.

Baxter, our joyous adolescent, kangaroo hops along the fence whenever a new best friend pulls into our drive (translation: any human being who approaches our gate; UPS man, mailman, pizza delivery boy, proseletyzing Jehovah's Witnesses, FedEx courier--you name it, it doesn't matter; any two-legged creature is Baxter's new best friend).

And then there's Elsie, the old-souled pup, who stands quietly gazing between fence rails observing who knows what. But stand she does. Still. For minutes on end. Wondering, I suppose, about the world beyond her boundaries.

It's amazing how like our four-legged loved ones we humans are. We hate fences, too. We see boundaries (ethics, values, laws, morals, contracts, rules, health guidelines, etc.) as restricting or confining or as killing our fun:

  • "You're ruining my social life," the curfewed teen cries.
  • Who says I can't have an affair! the bored husband rationalizes.
  • "So take the extra deduction; no one will know," the tax-padding co-worker counsels her friend.
  • "Why watch my diet? We all die anyway!" the overweight thirty-something mumbles as he consumes his super-sized fries..
But boundaries, like backyard fences, protect us, don't they? Speed limits prevent accidents. Marriage vows help spouses remain faithful. Food limits (healthy eating habits) prevent disease. Morals keep us out of all kinds of harm (STDs, imprisonment, drug-abuse related illnesses, damaged integrity).

Truth be told, I'm thankful for boundaries. Like my Labradors, I can roam free behind the fences of the laws by which I live (God's laws, civil laws, criminal laws, etc.), knowing they are there for my good.

Now if only I could convince Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge. :o)

'Til next time,

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