Walls (C.P. Cavafy, 1896)

Without consideration, without pity, without shame
they have built great and high walls around me.

And now I sit here and despair.
I think of nothing else: this fate gnaws at my mind;

for I had many things to do outside.
Ah why did I not pay attention when they were building the walls.

But I never heard any noise or sound of builders.
Imperceptibly they shut me from the outside world.

There has been a lot of talk lately of building walls. It has made me think about the kinds of things we try to keep inside and the kinds of things we try to keep out.

In dreams, walls may symbolize the invisible barriers we have erected around ourselves for protection. Walls may also symbolize limitations, obstructions or boundaries we have encountered in some aspect of our lives.

To dream that you are building a wall can refer to a bad relationship or childhood trauma. The wall is a symbol of trying to keep others out for fear of getting hurt again.

Other meanings of a wall in a dream  could be that you have accepted your limitations. On the other hand, to dream that your house has no walls can represent a lack of privacy; that you feel everyone is looking over your shoulder or into your business.

Even though it seems that one of the common reasons for erecting a wall is fear – fear of attack, fear of invasion or intrusion – the same walls that are meant to protect us eventually serve to confine and restrict us – forming a cage that keeps us in as much as it keeps others out.

It seems that for as long as people have been buiding walls – there have also been people of conscience struggling to tear them down.

In the Bible we read in the Book of Joshua we read about the city of Jericho surrounded by great walls:

“So the people shouted, and priests blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat.”

I find it comforting that the walls of Jericho were not felled by armies or by weapons but by “shouting” – by protest – by verbal resistance.

On June 12, 1987, speaking at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, President Ronald Reagan challenged the leader of the Soviet Union leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, to destroy the Berlin Wall, the physical symbol of Communism.

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr.Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!'”

And in November 1989 the wall came tumbling down.

On July 26, 1990 at the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1996 President H.W. Bush famously said:

“And now I sign legislation which takes a sledgehammer to another wall, one which has for too many generations separated Americans with disabilities from the freedom they could glimpse, but not grasp. Once again, we rejoice as this barrier falls for claiming together we will not accept, we will not excuse, we will not tolerate discrimination in America…

Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

Fear of the unknown is perhaps a universal fear but time and time again we learn that building walls in response to that fear harms those on both sides of the wall. So perhaps it is time to build windows, doors and bridges instead.

Please remember that the first step in tearing down a wall is to raise you voice:


“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”  (William Faulkner)

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