I’ve just been walking around my neighbourhood looking at the boundaries of properties. There are no properties that are without walls or fences, unlike the USA where you can walk through many suburbs and never see a fence or wall. Some fences are really ugly – vibracrete, spikes and electric fencing.

It would be hard to beat this for ugliness

It would be hard to beat this for ugliness

Not high on aesthetics!

Not high on aesthetics!

There are other boundaries that seem to invite you in and give you views of the garden and house within. Low Victorian walls and wrought iron or see- through fences, still mark the limits of the property but are not so forbidding.

An attractive Victorian wall

An attractive Victorian wall

Generous garden softens the boundary

Generous garden softens the boundary

As I walked and observed I thought about the purposes of boundaries – protection, an indication of where my property begins and ends, a means of giving privacy, a statement about what is valued… there are probably more things. And I thought about psychological boundaries and what a popular metaphor that has become. I’m not saying that we should not protect ourselves. Of course we should, but there are more and less attractive ways of doing this. I’m not saying that we should not indicate to others where our limits are. Of course we should, but there is perhaps a bit too much emphasis on standing on rights. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have privacy. Of course we need times and spaces for ourselves, but we do live in communities and we need to invite others in as well as keep others out.

If our property boundaries are high, impenetrable, spiky and forbidding, what does it say about us? And if psychology has put so much emphasis on internal boundaries what does it do to us as people? If we were to talk more about generosity, inclusion and invitations within, and less about keeping others out, what would that signify?

A generous sharing of roses

A generous sharing of roses

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