— Thomas Edison
— John Galsworthy
It’s easy to build walls. Any average, unskilled person can build a wall. All that is required is stacking objects on top of each other, in a row, as high as desired. The objects could be anything - stones, bricks, chain links, Rubix cubes - anything. Simply start stacking and voila - a wall. Very simple.
Bridges, on the other hand, are not easy. They require specific, high-level skill sets - geometry, physics, design, geology, construction, and more. They require planning, scouting, favorable conditions, and strong collaboration. The slightest miscalculation can lead to failure - injury…death. Unlike building walls, building bridges is hard.
Walls are segregating structures. They are built to keep people or things apart. And they are easy to build. As it turns out, segregation…is easy.
Fear, ignorance, hate - these are the things from which walls are built. All easy emotional states. This is why wall-building institutions such as religion proliferate so easily. Believers vs Sinners. Us vs Them. This is easy stuff to grasp. Easy walls to build.
The people that build walls will tell you that walls offer security. That they protect you from the ‘bad things’ on the outside.
But the funny thing about walls is that they do just as good a job at keeping things out as they do at keeping things in. The price wall-builders pay for security from the outside is freedom for themselves. In order to remain safe from the outside, you must stay on the inside. Entrapped by fear disguised as the need for security.
Bridges, on the other hand, are connective structures. They bring people or things together. They unite. But unlike segregation, connection…is hard.
And just as fear is the bedrock on which walls are built, it takes courage to build a bridge. The courage to face the unknown and potential differences. Courage to bypass the easy road to segregation and forge a path to connection.
Yes, walls are easy to build. But the payoff is enclosure. With each wall goes more freedom.
Bridges may be very hard to build, but they payoff is opportunity. Connections represent opportunity. The opportunity to connect, cross pollinate perspectives, merge contexts. Bridges build openness and transparency. And this is the fertile ground of progress.
Nothing good has ever come from separation, but almost everything good has come from connection.
ps - I’d be lying if I said this post wasn’t affected by Nelson Mandela’s recent presence in the news. If and when he passes, we will lose one of the best bridge builders the world has ever known. He’ll be impossible to replace, but my hope is that his spirit lives on and fertilizes many more generations of those like him…