Saturday, January 4, 2014
The Nature of Walls
In the quite hours of the morning, walking along the walls of Londonderry or Derry, I am struck by the history of the walls and the symbolic nature of the walls in the context of human nature in relation to leadership. The reality of the walls built around the city is rooted in protecting the city and those who lived in the city from the English and Scottish. The significance of the wall’s ability to protect and even divide individuals remained well into the 20th century; however, the power of the wall now serves to remind others of the past and the evolution experienced by the residence in Londonderry – the wall is a symbol of the past and a beacon for a shared future. In life we all have walls which we have built to protect ourselves from those who might challenge our beliefs or cause harm to our souls.
T.S. Elliot said, “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” The walls we construct provide a sense of security around what we value most, our souls [self]. As leaders we do not necessarily fear the conflicts which propel us to build the walls, rather we fear that others will find the chinks within the wall which are masking our vulnerabilities and we will be forgotten in the context of our capacity for effective leadership. The fear we experience propels us to reinforce the wall; however, in the action of reinforcing our wall we lose our sense of aliveness and connection to others. The walls prevent us from experiencing all that life has to offer. The challenge of leadership is to tear down walls, to create an environment where we can experience vulnerability and learn from those who might seek to cause harm to our soul in order to understand the conflict which leads us to build walls. The soul must find a safe place to exist; otherwise the soul will be no more than a handful of dust and disappear with the wind. The wall must be deconstructed, to fully understand the fear and define a balanced existence where we can experience a sense of vulnerability without the need for self-preservation.