It rained last night. Started gently, then it poured. This rain meant business. I was expecting a dark day in its wake, but it took almost no time for the clouds to dissipate and let the sun come forth to illuminate the air that was scrubbed clean by the copious rainfall.
I went for a walk in the hills of my neighborhood to take advantage of the light and the fresh air. Along the way I passed a number of houses that seemed to beep at me as soon as I came within their radius. Must be the latest in showing off that the security systems, which were also advertised on the lawns or the side of these houses, were working. Signs that even here, in the quiet suburbs with steep hills and no sidewalks, surveillance is just another convenience for the ease of mind, if not that of the heart.
Personally, if I had to live in a house that beeped every time something moved outside, no matter how discreet that beep was, it would drive me batty. It would, in fact have the opposite effect form the one intended. Instead of feeling reassured that I am secured by the technology and service of that company, I would be constantly alarmed, and reminded of the fears that make the sale of such systems a snap in places like my neighborhood that is one of the safest that I know. But that’s the flip side of those security systems isn’t it? Even as the systems to secure us get more sophisticated, they somehow ensure that our fears stay alive and well and keep growing.
I have walked this neighborhood for many years, in fact, more than a decade. I remember how shortly after 9/11 happened, I started to see more and more fences being built along my usual route in an area that was rather out of the way of traffic of any kind. Some of those fences are starting to show their age now. I wonder if they’ll be replaced with the electronic monitoring systems I am seeing more of these days.
Back when I first saw the fences go up I felt that people were retreating, erecting barriers to the world they did not comprehend, while they sought sanctuary within the hearth. Now, when I hear those beeps as I pass the invisible fences that are going up, I feel that people see themselves living in a world mapped only by the topography of danger. In such a place there is no relief for hearth. In other words, there is no longer a line in the sand between inside and outside, between home and the world for these people. Exposure is the quicksand on which the line keeps getting redrawn, if it gets drawn at all. Oddly, the fears not withstanding, this may not be such a bad thing. After all, that beep, unlike the mute fence, is a form of calling out, an engagement with the world….