Thursday, November 01, 2007

Security at the Expense of Freedom

On one of my trips to Jerusalem, I had a simple chore to do for my friend Steve. His living room window was filthy and I wanted to wash it for him. I easily accomplished the task of cleaning the inside of the window. Steve then explained that it was almost impossible to clean the outside because of the ‘security cage’ that had been installed to prevent break-ins. Almost all the windows here have bars on them. It was one of the first things I noticed about ‘life in the middle east.’ I remember wondering if I could live with bars on my windows. They always make me feel like I’m in a prison cell.

“How hard could it be?” I wondered. A lot harder than I thought! The cage had been put in without a lot of thought. It is not removable, nor does it open. The only access to the outside of the window is from inside the house (by reaching through the open window itself and squeezing into the 8 inch wide cage), or by crawling through the shrubs outside and reaching through the small cage openings to wash a very small section of the window at one time. I eventually found myself in the cage, looking like a Garfield cat with suction cups on its feet, trying to wash a window that was 2 inches in front of my nose. My range of motion for my arms was incredibly restricted by the tight space. I did it, but I also understood how the window had gotten as dirty as it was. It is a royal pain using any of the limited options to clean it! As a result, it just doesn’t get cleaned.

I started to reflect on how “for security” this cage was installed to ‘keep out bad things’ without any thought to the impact that it would have on daily quality of life. To look through a dirty window might not seem like a big deal… but metaphorically it is! The only goal was to ‘keep safe.’ But at what cost? The result is a situation that negatively impacts the quality of one’s life and interaction with the world. In this case the window is dirty almost all the time. It restricts natural light from entering the room. It distorts the view of the ‘outside world.’ It looks dreary and depressing, which is the mood of almost everyone in this dark and disturbed part of the world.

What struck me most was the blind urge for security at any cost that was obviously at play when the cage was installed. It could have been done differently… in a way that would not denigrate the quality of life. Many decisions about how to ‘keep ourselves safe’ could be looked at from a more broad, less paranoid perspective. Many times our attempt to ‘keep ourselves safe’ ends up putting us in a prison of our own creation. We trade a lot of freedom and life quality in the quest to protect ourselves. Are we really safer there? Is it worth what we have to give up? Exploring the true nature of security and freedom is fertile ground in own spiritual growth process. I believe if we understand ‘true security’ we will not need to lock ourselves in prison to feel safe. Open the cage and set yourself free. It is the way to peace on earth! Salam-Shalom-Peace…

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