Getting Over The Wall
by Jake Block
There was a town in the midwest, and it was pretty much like any other town, with houses, stores, churches, a hospital and all the rest. People living in the town were happy in their modest but nice little homes, and they lived, played, ate and slept there, much like families in any other town until… well, for some damned reason, someone built a ten foot wall between the houses and the rest of the town. If you wanted to go to any of the stores, churches, businesses or the hospital, you first had to get over the wall.
Most of the people got over the wall with no real problem. They would simply get up in the morning and head out the door toward the wall between them and the rest of the town, get up a little bit of speed and jump, grabbing ahold of the wall at the top, and with a little effort, pulled themselves up and over. Once they were over the wall, the whole world was theirs to explore. Some went to the businesses, stores and churches and then returned to their homes on the residential side of the wall. Others, upon getting over the wall moved on to other towns, other states and some came back, but others went on to bigger and better things.
Some people, though, found that wall just to difficult to get over. It was too high, or they couldn’t get a grip on the top of it, or they would fall back to the ground, unable to pull themselves up and over. Some were old, and some were young, and some were black, and some were white, and some were hispanic, and some were short, female, male, gay, under educated, poor… the one thing they had in common was that they couldn’t get over the wall. They tried and tried, but eventually, just gave up. They heard tales of the wonderful things on the other side of the wall, but alas, it was not for them.
One day John, one of those who was having trouble with the wall, was watching his neighbors go up and over quickly, and they seemed very excited to be going into town. He saw Mayor Burns heading toward the wall and asked, “Your Honor, why is everyone so excited to go into town today?” The mayor slowed down and said, “Fred’s Chicken Shack is giving away free buckets of chicken to anyone who visits their shop today, since it’s their tenth anniversary!”
John looked sad and whined, “Damn. Free chicken. I never get to go into town, so it looks like I’m missing out again.” The mayor continued on his way to town, grabbing the top of the wall, and pulling himself up and over, saying, “John, it’s all there waiting for you. All you have to do is get over the damned wall!”
So you’ve had a bad life, and it seems that everything around you is geared toward holding you back and keeping you down. Welcome to what is probably the world’s largest club. But there’s an old saying that I’m sure you’ve heard before. “It’s not the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog.”
I would suppose that everyone has a bad time at point or another, and I’m not talking about a bad day here, but a time in your life that might just make you wonder if going on is really is really worth the effort. It seems so with most people, and I am often reminded of a quote by Thoreau, “The mass of men live a life of quiet desperation.” There was a time in my life when I would have thought he was talking about me. And during the times in my life where I felt lost, and that I just couldn’t make it, it was impossible not to notice those in life who seemed to have it easy, and it seemed that success was handed to them, and here I was, a kid on the streets of East St. Louis, with nothing to look forward to, so I understand the concept of that ten foot wall.
A “bad life” can be as bad as you can think, and as visible as the incurably insane man forever in a prison of his own mind, locked inside forever in an asylum within the asylum, lost within his own insanity. It can be that “quiet desperation,” disguised in a mansion in Beverly Hills, and that Hollywood star who takes her own life, because she simply can’t go on being perfect in a world that demands her to give even more, when she’s out of “more” to give. It can be found in the ghetto or in suburbia, and even in the ghetto, can be hidden from the eyes of those around you, who might see you as happy and content, never knowing the aching desire and desperate need to get out… just get out and get more.
Life passes, and we either stay where we are behind the wall, or we find the incentive and will to get up and out. There’s always a way out. We just have to find it. If you’re poor, you might have to be more inventive and advance more slowly than someone who’s born with that proverbial silver spoon, but it can be done. At least, we can try. Failure happens, but then, so does success. The trick is to resist being lulled into the quiet desperation of just giving in to what you can come to feel is “your station” in life. When you accept the life you’re living as “your station,” even though deep in the pit of your soul, you’re dying to be free, then you are lost.
When life is hard and you know that you’re meant for better things, the one thing that you must do to survive is find some way to get over that damned wall.