Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where the Wind Hit Heavy on the Borderline...

I am a borderliner.  I live so close to a border that my cats regularly travel from one country to another by paw... take a look around and then wander back home again. Just taking my children to school and bringing them home every day means I cross the Wales-England border four times! The border is peaceful now but in the Middle Ages it was fought over continuously (my own village changed hands many times), and the Welsh borders had the highest concentration of military castles and forts anywhere in the world!  The border is now between England and Wales, but once it was the border between the Kingdom of Mercia and the Kingdom of Radnor.

You may argue that the border I live on is hardly worthy of the name; it has no wall, it has no fence, neither passports nor visas are required, no checkpoints, no customs.  Yet every time I cross the border I give it some thought. Our local stretch of the border has been marked, since the time of King Offa, by the River Dulas, and today the border can only be crossed by one of the many small bridges that have been built over the centuries.  (You can of course cross the border by getting your feet wet, but that’s not for me, nor my cats.)  We do, of course, have a language difference; a Welsh place name and traffic signs do not let you forget which side of the border you are on. I don’t speak Welsh, but my children are all learning ~ it is an ancient and beautiful tongue.

I don’t come from this part of the world originally, but it has been my home for a little longer than eight years and I feel very ‘at home’ here. It’s the place that I feel more at home in than anywhere else that I have lived, but why is this? Is that because that state of being ‘on the border’ fits me so well? If you too live on a border, any border, perhaps you will know what I mean. Of course living on the border is not the same as ‘living on the edge’ – people that live on the coastline of a country are always fully part of that country – yet those that live on the border are always something strangely different. Living on the edge (in both senses) may be more dangerous, but living on the border is more compromising.

Perhaps being a borderliner means that you never feel that you are fully part of anything; you always feel... not detached, but marginalized. You are at the boundary of the field and can get a good view of what’s happening in the next field –over the hedge. Perhaps being a borderliner means that you can too easily see the flaws in your argument and the good points of another. Overall, being a borderliner means that you are committed to your cause, but you don’t feel that it entitles you to dismiss the cause of another. Borderliners don’t feel that they belong on this side of the border, or that side, they feel that they belong ON the border. Some borderliners don’t actually live on a border at all; they just feel as if they do or, perhaps, if you live in a country that you have adopted, you feel that the border is just around you.

Borders are not only geographical, they are also philosophical. If I look at the descriptions people write about themselves on their blogs, Facebook or Twitter, you can identify those who feel that they need to describe themselves by adding a degree of shading to their beliefs.  People are sometimes reluctant to fit into just one group, or maybe they relish the chance to span more than one. I have listed (alphabetically) just a few of these below;

All religions are roads to the truth
Anglican, somewhat Friendly
Being a Quaker is not a religion, it is a philosophy
Buddhist Quaker
Christian Unitarian
Quagan (Liberal Quaker/Pagan)
Quakerly-inclined Unitarian
Quakers and Unitarians are cool!
Unitarian Universalist with leanings to Judaism

This list could go on and on, but you get the idea; lots of people are natural borderliners! Of course I have not included those that just say ‘Christian’, Baptist, Catholic or Muslim or those that say nothing at all, but perhaps at least some of these others are closet borderliners. I invariably describe myself as ‘Liberal Quaker’ but as a borderliner I realise this is not good enough.  I also feel very drawn to Celtic Christianity, Judaism, Unitarianism, Paganism ~ I might be better off with a Venn diagram and forget a written description altogether! And if you look at my list and spot contradictions of theology then let me tell you I can justify all!

 Look at any map.  You can easily find the borders. They are marked in thick lines, some borders following the course of rivers and mountains, others simply straight lines drawn on a map. Not all borders, it seems, can be seen.  Some borders lie within us; the borders between belief and disbelief, the borders between altruism and selfishness, the border between acceptance and prejudice, the border between compassion and disinterest. How many times a day do you cross these borders, what is your map and where are your bridges?


More about the ancient kingdoms of Britain

What's Hay Quaker up to this week?

The wind really has been hitting heavy on the borderlands this week. Little constructive work other than cleaning up the debris.


  1. Thanks for posting. I do indeed live on a border, between the USA and Canada, and I am very much a border dweller all my life, from a borders family. I am American by nationality, residing in Canada, having returned to the motherland my grandparents left seeking work. It is no longer a porous border; I can no longer go across and back without a great deal of trouble. I hope the borders of mind do not become that inflexible. I feel like Robin Hood here, living very unofficially in the woods, with some sort of uneasy truce with the Sheriff.

  2. Non-porous borders can cause pain and heartbreak. From what I know of you Magdalena the borders of your mind are infinitely flexible and surround rich and fertile pastures.

  3. Yes I too am a dweller on the borders of things, being both Wiccan and Unitarian.

  4. That is a very rich and fertile border Yewtree.