Long ago, in a place of hot sand, blistering sun and gleaming water, there lived a small community of women and children. During the day, they were actively engaged in the larger community of men and women that surrounded them but at night, they retreated behind the locked gates of a compound, surrounded by high and thick stone walls. The only way in was if invited.
The compound housed a small collective of women and children, about 40 in total. Although they looked like everyone else, they were different. They thought differently… spoke differently… and created their world differently. Theirs was a world inside a world; and as much as they could venture out into that other world, others could not seem to enter into theirs.
One night, they came. In the peaceful stillness of sleeping women and children came the sounds of running feet… startled screams and crying children. And the carnage began. When it was over, all the children were silent. The women, still alive in body, were dead in spirit and soul. The message had been delivered: silence yourselves or we will silence you!
We were harmless. In truth, we ventured into the community and offered new thoughts… new ways of being… that brought hope to those who had tired of living. We challenged no one. We invited and offered; we listened and respected; and then at night, we would return to our world within a world. Clearly, our ways of being had become a challenge or a threat to that other world, as it had come to know itself.
How could it have happened? How could the walls of this impenetrable place have been breached? When the image of the compound comes to mind, its walls are several feet thick and stand several men high. At a time when tools to challenge were minimal, there was only one way: someone inside opened the gates.
Betrayal. Betrayal from within. Betrayal of the self, by the self. In my own world, today, how many times does this happen? How many times do I pull back and stop myself from engaging in what I know is deeply meaningful? How many times do I allow an other from within my world to sell me short, talk me out of or into something? In how many ways do I allow someone… another or some aspect of myself… to breach the compound of my own intentions and leave me lifeless and silent in the creation of what is deeply meaningful for and to me?
Time passes… information flows… and it comes to be discovered that the one who opened the gate did so out of a desire to help… to ‘make things right’… having come to believe that this world within a world was wrong/bad/dangerous. Rather than just leave; and in the genuine and misguided desire to help and do the ‘right’ thing; in the need to be accepted and integrated into the larger world, one woman’s choices brought an end to the choices of so many others. This world came to an end. The greatest danger… the one that could touch us… lived inside the walls.
In this moment, I wonder: how many women strive to help other women get ‘back on track’… return to the norm… let go of their disruptive thinking and conform? With the practice of foot binding, it is the women who bound the feet of their young daughters.
In this moment, I look inside to determine where my greatest challenges lie.