Wednesday, June 21, 2006

stop.. wait.. go..

A few days ago, I was driving down the street, when I approached a red light at the intersection. As I pressed on the break, I noticed 3 little boys crossing the street. They were walking, completely oblivious to the big dangerous machine that was driving towards them. The car stopped and I watched them, calmly strolling across the street, talking about whatever it is 8 year old boys talk about, one of them holding a ball in his hand, neither of them glancing over at my car.

Suddenly I got this thought in my mind, how could they be so careless and indifferent? Didn’t they realize that if I hadn’t stopped the car
, I could have hit them? I could have driven right through the street, just as they were crossing! I was amazed at how calm and unaware they were to the danger they had just escaped. I wondered how it was that these three little boys could cross right in front of a potential killing machine without flinching.. and then it occurred to me that the reason they had barely even noticed me was because I was at a red light and they had the green light. It was my time to stop and their time to safely cross the street.

Now I know you’re thinking 'she cant possibly be writing a blog post about the wonders of traffic lights', well you're right, its actually a post about the wonders and beauty of boundaries.

Whether they're boundaries given to us by the Torah, or boundaries we've established in our relationships, I think these serve not only to protect us, but to enable growth and development. Rules or boundaries give us security, and only when we feel secure can we reduce the fear factor and raise the growth factor. When I have set boundaries I am able to explore and dare much more than when I have complete 'freedom'. In a situation without rules, I'm theoritically free to do as I please, but I lack the ability put that into practice because I am constantly worrying about the potential dangers.

Remember when you were a kid and you would jump on the bed? You’d jump in the middle of the bed, up and down and up and down… and then you’d start to get bored and eventually get a little more daring and get closer and closer to the edge. You could only go so far, though, before you'd risk falling off the bed. Now imagine there had been a fence around the bed that would protect you from falling over, you’d have been able to jump across the entire bed, with no fear of tumbling off. The result would be that by adding this barrier you’d have a much greater area to jump on. This seemingly limiting addition would in fact give you more freedom, the freedom to jump around the entire bed area.

Rules and boundaries act in that way, they delimit how far we can go, but contrary to our intuitive reaction, they don’t reduce how much benefit we can get, instead, they increase the range we can benefit from.

So back to those three little boys, if there was no green light for them and no red light for me, they still could have crossed the street, but they’d have no way of knowing when it would be safe. They would need to approximate and evaluate the speed of my car and how long it would take them to get to the other side, they then would run across just to be extra safe, and in the end they’d either make it..
or not..

Removing those traffic lights would in theory grant me the freedom to drive when I wanted to, and them the freedom to walk when they wanted to, but in reality both of us would be worried to cross at the wrong time. The lawlessness would in fact hinder our peace of mind and freedom to cross freely and carefree.

So.. the next time i feel that a rule I've taken on myself, or a boundary I've established in a relationship, is stifling or reducing my range of movement, I'll try to remember the carefree crossing of these three boys and remind myself that it is precisely those ‘constraints’ that give me the freedom to stroll through life with peace of mind while benefiting from a fuller range of experiences.


At Thursday, June 22, 2006 2:15:00 AM, Blogger A Chasidic Buchar said...

some parents srap their kid feet so they can't jump...

At Thursday, June 22, 2006 6:07:00 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

Aside form the obvious lesson that we should look even if the light is green, before crossing, very good point.
So an 8 year old taught you something? Cute.

At Thursday, June 22, 2006 8:25:00 AM, Blogger ~ Sarah ~ said...

great lesson!

It reminds me of a quote by an influential designer named Tibor Kalman that goes something (can't find exact wording) like this "There is nothing like the freedom of a well define brief (project)." And it's true, I always preferred an assignment where there more specific guidelines to something that was more free!

So you are right, boundaries (Torah or otherwise) are for protection so that you can make the most of what you have in a safe environment.

At Thursday, June 22, 2006 9:10:00 AM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

The monkey book is one of my daugher's favorite. Love the red, yellow, and green font colors. That happens all the time to me. Kids being oblivious to the cars. I am talking about no lights. They run in middle of the street. They see I am coming and take their slow time. They obviously do not like boundaries. Maybe some day they will learn. I know boundaries save my life. I love the way you linked the traffic lights to the lesson of boundaries. Cool pic!

At Thursday, June 22, 2006 10:01:00 AM, Blogger s.J. said...

interesting idea.
but that's part of the fun.
it's sorta like crossing highway lanes at night with no reflector (don't ask- long story); it sorta adds to the moment.


At Thursday, June 22, 2006 10:47:00 AM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

That is sooo profoundly true...I love the way you find these deep concepts in the mundane.

At Thursday, June 22, 2006 12:16:00 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

What a wonderful introspective post!
You're so right, sometimes we just appreciate our boundaries as giving us more room!

At Thursday, June 22, 2006 1:19:00 PM, Blogger A Frum Idealist said...

Mikol Melamdai Hiskalti. I don't think that is restricted to people. I think as you demonstrate here, you can learn from anything. Anything, event or object, can become your teacher.
Excellent lesson.

At Thursday, June 22, 2006 2:17:00 PM, Blogger Scraps said...

I really like the mashal and the nimshal. It's great how you can learn from every situation!

At Thursday, June 22, 2006 2:48:00 PM, Blogger Lakewood Venter said...

Interesting perspective.

At Thursday, June 22, 2006 6:42:00 PM, Blogger Bonnie B said...

How right you are-- we need rules to be free

At Thursday, June 22, 2006 10:05:00 PM, Blogger chaverah said...

wow. Very deep! At first i honestly thought this will be a boring blog but then i started reading it and the consept it so deep! How true. but i tell you the truth i hate rules! so at least i have a new way to look at rules and perhap appreciate them. thanks!

At Friday, June 23, 2006 12:12:00 AM, Blogger the sabra said...

oooh i like the jumpin on the bed one. (aint we all harborin a bit o monkey inside us?..some more than others...)

and pragmatic, whats with the condescendin tone? whats the minimum age that one can learn from?

At Friday, June 23, 2006 9:17:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

a chasidic buchar:
youre right, unfortunately. boundaries and rules should be given and taught with love, not as a tool to manipulate.

everyone has something to teach me, and if they don't its probably cuz im not trying hard enough or im being stubborn

yup, good boundaries allow you enough room to be creative and to move around, but not so much room that makes you feel lost and overwhelmed.

socialworker/frustrated mom:
of course kids dont like boundaries.. actually i'd say most adults dont appreciate them either.. thats what good parents and good friends need to teach us

s.J. :
oh its definitely fun, no doubt about it.. its fun for the first 10 years, 20 years of your life.. but at some point it stops being interesting and starts being stressful..
(but it never stops being interesting when its done vicariously through someone else's experiences - wont you share the no reflector story with us? :)

thanks, i appreciate the encouragement :)

its a struggle not to rebel to the boundaries, but the more you realize the benefit the easier it becomes.. at least for me.

frum idealist:
yup, i agree! thanks :)


wow all this praise.. maybe i should post some of the obvious lessons ive completely missed or been too stubborn to learn so i can balance out the image i seem to be potraying here ...

lakewood venter:
a new perspective on rules..

bonnie b:
that would be the abbreviated version of the post - people complain my posts are too long.. wanna summarize them for the lazy readers? :)

you dont know how much *I* hate rules too. trust me, i wouldnt written this up if this was an obvious lesson to me, or if i didnt find a big struggle in accepting this, but i feel that when you have the right perspective, over time, it develops your thinking patterns.. and im hoping at some point in my life (maybe at 119 years old) ill finally learn...
im glad you appreciated it!

the sabra:
10 little monkey jumping on the bed
one fell off and bumped his head
mama called the doctor and the doctor said
no more monkeys jumping on the bed!!

At Friday, June 23, 2006 10:14:00 AM, Blogger s.J. said...

so does everything in life.

um... to boil it down to the basics:
i didn't have a ride home from the city, so i hiked across the the gw, up along the highway, ran across three lanes of traffic, to a gas station and hitched a ride back home.


At Friday, June 23, 2006 1:12:00 PM, Blogger Genendy said...

Great originial thought.

At Friday, June 23, 2006 1:45:00 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Yes that is true too. I do agree.

At Saturday, June 24, 2006 12:01:00 AM, Anonymous gheemaker said...

my internet session tonight consisted of your post and this
interesting synchronicity
maybe not %100 per your topic
but thats ok,
didnt cross any lines right?
(horid pun)

At Saturday, June 24, 2006 12:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe sometimes it is good to fall off the bed...

At Sunday, June 25, 2006 12:10:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

sounds like you live it up..


im flattered i got to share the evening with your beloved RAW. i loved this line in the movie:
"any model we make does not describe the universe, it describes what our brains are capable of saying at this time"
good stuff!

maybe youre right, care to explain why?

At Sunday, June 25, 2006 12:30:00 AM, Blogger trixies86 said...

deep. you gave me the words for something I was trying to find the words for. namely when your at a shooting range and they call cease fire why people feel perfectly safe walking out were bullets have been wizzing for the past 25 minutes and will soon begin wizzing again. I couldn't figure it out till now. thanks.

At Sunday, June 25, 2006 12:59:00 AM, Blogger Lady-Light said...

post, shmost, and depth, shmepth - what I'M interested in is, where is that CRAAA-ZY intersection with the kookoo traffic lights? I wanna go there!!!

At Sunday, June 25, 2006 5:54:00 PM, Blogger FrumGirl said...

I think this post is great. It truly shows how torah in essence free's us!

Now what about those people who just loooooooooooove to jump right on the edge?

At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 8:32:00 AM, Blogger jim said...

Yes it expands your reach and your world, how could I say that I love you, if I didn't have and know my own boundaries were there? How could anyone cross the street without worrying about it?

This is a deep and very meaningful post, my hat is off to you. Very deep with wide implications, I love it.

Thanks, hope your new job is okay.

At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 2:40:00 AM, Blogger jjew said...

Very cool, I often ponder this as I sit in my car at a light. It's marvelous; the world trusts in the boundaries, the law, set up by the light system when in fact all a person has to do is run it. It is exactly like the Torah. I remember one amazing time when all four traffic lights at one intersection were out. Apparently nobody called the cops, or they weren't there yet, but for a period of about ten minutes people switched to their "Time of Meshiach" behavior and took turns on thier own going and stopping. About 20 or 30 cars drove, then stopped, and then 20 or 30 cars from the other direction drove through. They tested when it was the right time to go based on intuition, and eventually a car would careen through the intersection, but for the most part it was totally fine. It was amazing, a slice of Geulah. Yaniv...


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