2008/04/10

Trespassers Will

Remember how, in Winnie the Pooh, there is a sign at Piglet's house that says, "Trespassers W" which is thought to be Piglet's grandfather's name, which is Trespassers Will, which is short for Trespassers William? This post is a bit of thought about trespassers -- and invasions.

Before I post this stuff, I'd better make something clear. I'm not recommending lining the edges of your property with the upcoming sort of "I dare ya" signage. They just struck me funny, and they're good illustrations of what I'm talking about. Okay? Not advocating the signs for anyone to use. Not. However, in the name of fairness, I have made all the following versions of "keep out" linked to where I got them. Just click. No. Brace yourself, then click. Apparently there are some very paranoid people out there!

Now, that being said, here's how I used to think and feel about anything I considered to be within my own "territory" - my business - my life - my decisions. I thought I needed to make sure people got this message: Maybe it's a youthful thing? Maybe the young know their defenses to be easily breached? And ... admittedly, I was a somewhat intense and fierce young person. (Shocker, I know.) One of my favorite quotes back then was the quote I wrote in a journal back then as the motto of the French Foreign Legion.

If I falter, push me on.
If I stumble, pick me up.
If I turn back, shoot me.

Somehow, I needed to convince people that I meant it - no matter what it was.

Then I started to grow up.

And I started to realize that a lot of people don't trespass on purpose. They're just wandering around, and they're largely unaware that they've crossed any lines. (This happens in real life all the time - people wander through our property not realizing that the fact of a bunch of trees does not a federally managed, hiking trail rich, forest just for you make. I have to start the conversation with, "Did you know you're on private property?") Gradually, the edges of a basically defensive stance started to soften or wear off a bit, and I got as far as: This seemed a little more fair. In fact, I didn't need to say it that way at all. Usually it took the form of "if you don't want me to bite you, don't put your fingers in my mouth," or even the still less aggressive, "don't ask me if you don't really want an answer."

Then I got married, and had kids, and watched human people grow and develop and turn into adult human people. I kept my eyes open. I began to see that there were certain sorts of people likely to be invaded and trespassed upon, and certain sorts that nearly never had it happen to them. Oddly enough, the likelihood of invasion was nearly a perfect inverse to the defensive notices of the property owner! Folks who guard their lives with all that defensive stuff just end up inviting it!

The other sort that gets invaded is the sort who doesn't know where his own boundaries are. When the kids were still small, I saw a very interesting (and very helpful) expert talking about the children most vulnerable to predators. He made a good point. Babies tend to be very self-protective. But the more we insist that the child "kiss Uncle Harry" (whom they've never seen before in their young lives) or "give Aunt Janet a hug" (when Aunt Janet is a very scary person), the more we break down their natural defenses. Beating a child ... taking away the child's decision making experiences ... not telling the child when you're leaving but just sneaking out when he's not looking (what a horrid thing to do!) ... it all gives the child the sense that what the adults do is beyond the child's purview, and no objections will be attended. The child convinced of this is easy prey.

So ... if the people who walk their fences with guns slung over their shoulders, and the people who don't seem to be able to define their own boundaries are at greatest risk of invasion in human relationships, who's the least likely to have her life trespassed?

Well, think about it. Where do we hesitate to walk?
Would you be inclined to smash through that hedge and ride your bike in that lawn? Would you even go under that archway and up that path without express permission? And don't you want permission? It's graciously inviting - but not thrown open to any and sundry and all. Such a place calls us in, yet gives us an instant kind of politeness - simply because it's so well cared for.

That's who's "safe" -- the person who takes the most care over his own land is the least likely to be casually invaded or accidentally trampled. Good fences may make good neighbors, but someone's gotta build and maintain the things, right? And if the fence is a beautiful hedge? Then the territory's both inviting, and self-protecting. It invites rather than demands respect. It is, perhaps, one of the most loving things we can do to tend our own gardens.

2 comments:

Ami said...

Your theory of well tended boundaries being recognized by others works in a society where people have been educated from day one to respect 'space'. Your mistake: you assume that your experience reflects realities worldwide, in all societies. Not true. Unfortunately, in most places space must be fiercly defended.

Stephanie said...

I agree with you, Ami. When the exterior of the well-tended plot is hostile to the plot, we must build and defend walls. I believe in the reality of actual evil.

I also believe in the human tendency to perceive it where it does not exist, and to make it where it did not used to be. To pick the fight, in other words. It's not either/or ... it's both/and. That's what I think.