As kids, the first thing we’d scribble on a blank sheet of paper would be a squiggle. Well almost — if your hand was steady as a three-year-old. As we get older, we learn about perfection. We learn about structure. And we try to perfect those squiggles. We try to make them into curves or circles. And as our our mortor skills develop, we try to draw lines and shapes. Strangely, we’re not any different as adults. We seem to keep drawing lines. It’s the easiest thing to do. We draw lines to unite. We draw lines to divide. And depending upon which side of the line we’re on — we tend to justify our reason for drawing the line.
“Meow” means “woof” in cat.”
― George Carlin
When placed in the correct order, lines can form letters. Letters can form words and words can form sentences. Sentences form a language and one would expect language to improve communication. And yet, when I speak to people who don’t speak the same language as me, I realise how little language means when you can perfectly communicate with your eyes and smile.
“Security is a double-edged sword: While a fence sure protects the fenced; it also imprisons the protected.”
― Mokokoma Mokhonoana
Some lines keep what we own or think is ours — away from those on the outside. It’s one way to shut the inside world from what’s on the outside or shut the outside world for those on the inside. We create islands on the same piece of land and alienate one from another.
“Free me as free is the forest fire, as is the thunder that laughs aloud and hurls defiance to darkness.”
― Rabindranath Tagore
On the other hand, some lines can join two separate pieces of land together. It can help us get from one chain of thought to another. With free exchange of ideas and thoughts — what we think — isn’t restricted to where we live.
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Unfortunately, some lines also have the power to destroy. To breed fear and act on it. Is dialogue the way around these lines? Can lifelines be increased by choosing to ignore these lines? Or, does life have to come at the price of death?
“If you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.”
― Terry Pratchett
As travellers, we choose lines that help us get away from the lines that restrict us to stay back. We choose to explore new lines and see what really lies beyond the horizon — even if we may never reach it.
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
― Nelson Mandela
Some lines try to suppress free thinking or different thinking. And the thought of submitting to these lines changes many who would have thought of thinking different. It takes courage to stay within these lines and not let them crush your spirit.
“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
― Virginia Woolf
And some lines can chain our thoughts without the need for boundaries or walls. These lines can stop us from discovering new ideas or exchanging the old ones.
“Every man I meet wants to protect me. I can’t figure out what from.”
― Mae West
Lines can also be rigid. Lines might make us want to conform. And once we conform, I wonder if there’s room for individuality or being different.
“I wonder what it felt to move to a country where you didn’t grow up. I had thought about that often since my sister got married. Do you become a character in a story native to that land, or do you, somewhere in your heart, want to return to your homeland.”
― Banana Yoshimoto
Some lines can evoke strange feelings in our hearts and even moisten our eyes. Some lines can make us believe in a place where we must belong. Even if, under the blue sky: we’re all the same, have the same needs, and as long as we’re protected from the elements, we should be able to call any place home.
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
And for every line that fails us, drawn by nature or us, we can only hope that light will guide us away from the darkness.