Lines, borders and boundaries


It’s a bit on the late side, but it’s quiet and well, like many things, when I need to do something, the other things says ‘what about me?’ I should sleep, but my knee hurts. I’ve been ruminating over these thoughts and it’s time for them to come out.

As usual I have a kaleidoscope of thoughts churning, like fairy floss, I need to grab one thread and wind it around this post. I know it’ll end in a sticky mess, but hopefully it will be worth it.

One more thing before I launch into this… Mark is not to blame J
Mark Weston is a prolific poster of quotes, sayings and thoughts, possibly #2049 of them. J I usually find myself agreeing with them but then, occasionally, like the creaking of old door opening, my mind opens to the possibility and other alternative thoughts creep in…


The words come from John Mayer’s song, ‘No Such Thing’ (link and lyric below), which seems to be a tale of deception, conformity and the settling with limitations. The narrator knows there’s “something better on the other side” with the discovery that “there’s no such thing as the real world, just a lie you got to rise above”.

Sounds like a classic rebellion of youth and the search for their own ‘real world’.

I believe that pushing boundaries is a normal behaviour for kids, it’s a developmental stage of discovering autonomy and control. Temper tantrums and toileting and that moment when your baby looks at you and says “No!”

I believe every child needs to go through this process and every parent has to determine how to hold the line, and let them push. This line is designed to help the family operate and to provide a safe environment for the child. This line slowly changes, as the child either increases in ability or takes more responsibility for themselves. Bed time is an example of this, where the parents determine the best way to work with the baby/child to ensure they are getting enough sleep.

It’s been my experience that the boundaries and lines are continually pushed and renegotiated as the child stumbles and surges towards adulthood and autonomy.

The family is possibly the first social institution to impose controls over the child. Where, hopefully, benevolent parents seek to help the child reach their potential.

Our wider society gets in on the act too. From the registration of birth, compulsory education and the government agencies who aim to ensure our children are looked after; there are lines imposed on us through our society.

The way I see it is that we have lines and boundaries placed upon our lives from different sources. Some are family and societies norms, others are laws placed upon us by our government. Each has consequences for transgressions.

When I heard that creaking noise of disagreement I was questioning the limits, what line shouldn’t be crossed, what if it does seem better, more enticing on the other side?

I’m not sure, but suspect that in an effort to accept diversity and to break down some of society’s norms, generalised, ‘catch all’ phrases have become accepted and defended.

Statements like:

  • It’s my body I can do what I want
  • Let people be who they want to be
  • It’s my life and I’ll do what I want
  • It’s my mind and I’ll think what I want

I think the above statements (and others like them) are based on acceptance and allowing others to reach whatever potential and purpose they have. It’s also about self-determination. I think the above statements are defended with a belief that everyone is naturally good and will operate morally.

The desire to feel free to choose and make our own way can result in blindly pushing back against the restriction. People don’t like being told what to do. And yet society will and needs to protect people from others. We need laws that support the safe use of our roads. We need laws that protect us in our work places.

I’m reminded of a Cub leader (Scouts) who ran a game he called, ‘No Rules’
He would give the group of children a basketball and said “there’s no rules, it’s your game”.
The kids would start throwing or kicking the ball. Within a short amount of time the leader would step in and stop the game, “Now there’s no rules, but it looked like Jimmy was going to get hurt. Is that ok? What should we do?”
The children would come up with a few ideas, like no kicking the ball. The game would restart, “There’s no rules, but you can’t kick the ball”.
A little later some people would be actively involved, others not so much. The game stops again “I’ve noticed that no one is getting hurt and that’s great, but Sophie isn’t looking happy, what’s the matter Sophie?”
“I’m not getting to have a go”

“Ok, how about if we share the ball around so everyone gets to join in”

“Right. No Rules, but you can’t hurt people and everyone needs to be able to play, but there are no rules…”

The above game helps the children to understand that it’s the rules that make every game fun. We need the restriction of lines on a basketball court to provide the challenge and structure that is basketball.
Rules, boundaries and lines all restrain but they can also allow freedoms and protection.


There are no rights without responsibilities


I want add one last thing ‘social responsibility’.

This will mean different things to different people, depending on your values. I consider that we have a responsibility to ‘add’ to society, to help it move forward and develop.

Recently I became aware of a young person I know who was harming themselves. It was their choice, but I don’t think it was good for them. Through social media they communicated to other young people and more became involved in self-harm. This is the opposite of adding to society, it’s the promotion of something detrimental.


Studies suggest that around 20 percent of people under 24 have self-harmed, and a warning that some social media websites are fuelling the increase, and a warning that this story contains confronting images and subject matter.


There are lines, borders and boundaries. We can push against them because they are there or we can think about them, and their purpose. We can look at the consequences of pushing against them and the cost to us if we do; and if we don’t.
I guess it’s for each of us to work out who we are and who we want to be. To work out how we engage with society and others. And possibly to be aware of what our lines, borders and boundaries are and how that might impact on others and their experience of life.


No Such Thing – John Mayer

Welcome to the real world, she said to me
Take a seat
Take your life
Plot it out in black and white
Well I never lived the dreams of the prom kings
And the drama queens
I’d like to think the best of me
Is still hiding
Up my sleeve

They love to tell you
Stay inside the lines
But something’s better
On the other side

I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
just to lie you’ve got to rise above

So the good boys and girls take the so called right track
Faded white hats
Grabbing credits
Maybe transfers
They read all the books but they can’t find the answers
And all of our parents
They’re getting older
I wonder if they’ve wished for anything better
While in their memories
Tiny tragedies

They love to tell you
Stay inside the lines
But something’s better
On the other side

I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you got to rise above

I am invincible (x3)
As long as I’m alive

I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just to lie you’ve got to rise above

I just can’t wait til my 10 year reunion
I’m gonna bust down the double doors
And when I stand on these tables before you
You will know what all this time was for

    • “No Such Thing” by John Mayer



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