Let's not talk politics or religion because frankly, as a horseman, I sit on the fence between the extremes. I find that many of my colleagues do the same. It's not to say we don't care about those things, because, ironically, we care as much as anyone. But the way we care might be related to the place we sit. On the fence, as the observer, always learning.
In a world where people always ask you where you stand, it's often hard to choose. Not because you don't have morals of your own or view points that mean something important to you, but because when you choose a side, you often leave out a few special loved ones who have chosen the other side. So naturally, I find it's best to sit in the middle. To be "the extreme middle of the road," as one of my great teachers taught me.
As a horseman, I have to live between the real human world and the horse world. I have to hop over the fence into the horse world every day. I find I spend an enormous amount time in both worlds. I like that thought. I use that thought. "Spend time in both worlds." The fence divides the two worlds, there is no doubt, but cowboys and cowgirls and horsemen and horsewomen alike can sit on the fence. It's not a wall, you can literally see right through it and over it to the other side. If you're brave, you can hop over it to be in the other side for as long as you like. Sometimes that's what it takes, bravery.
When a new horse enthusiast shows up to my ranch, they often fear being on the other side of the fence because the extreme power of the wild animal on the other side is intimidating. But with a few tools, they quickly realize that inside that wild animal is a sweetheart. And also, when the animal reverts to reaction and instinctive behaviors, they realize they can guide that reaction to a better emotional state without losing track of their own inner strength and personal awareness.
I often tell my students to take that lesson into their human world. People can react instinctively to pressures around them and show their extreme side. Remember that on the inside, they are still sweethearts. Somewhere in there is a less extreme, more capable, functioning person. If you have the right tools, you can communicate and even learn from that person.
Where I grew up, in my little community, religion was the main topic. Many, many times I was told that sitting on the fence was a bad thing. "Be committed," they said. "Do the right thing," they said. "Choose," they demanded. "Don't open the wrong book," they'd say, because the wrong book could lead you astray. But I never could follow the one-sided involvement strategies they promoted. Even at a young age, I looked to the other religions and saw similarities, not differences. That's not to say I couldn't see differences. I'm not blind. But the big pile of differences, as it happens, feels as much like a three rail fence as anything. It's got holes you can see right through, and if you're capable, you can climb right over. And from my experience, that's a great place to sit. Right in the very place I get to observe and learn from both sides. I love fence sitting. I love not choosing sides, because those who sit on the fence see more. They see both sides, they are both sides, they encompass both realms.
I get a kick out of seeing a line of spectators sitting on the edge of the corral. It tells me I have a willing audience, ready to be in the horse's world or outside in the human world. At a moments notice, any one of those participants can flexibly shift into another space. It tells a lot about a persons state of mind when they sit on the fence.
Naturally, I can't always live on the fence, I have chores to do outside the corral. I have to live in the extremes of either side for hours at a time. I have to commit to one side to accomplish a series of tasks. But you can count on one thing... my home is in the middle, with my feet on the second rail and my butt on the top rail, watching, and observing, and learning from what both sides have to offer. My whole world gravitates around that middle point. I find, even when I'm off the fence, committed to any particular task, I still glance back through to the other side. Like a driver would check the rear view mirror, I look back through the fence gaps to see something beautiful or to ensure the other side is functioning the way it's supposed to.
I know not everyone on the planet reads my articles, but if you do, take a lesson from a cowboy and try sitting on a fence, both physically, and metaphorically, and see just how much you can see when both worlds come together and make a beautiful panoramic view. It takes more balance to be in such a precarious place, to be sure, but it's worth it. Trust me. Learn to walk a mile in another's shoes and views without losing your own. Learn to trust the inner sweetheart in everyone and every animal. Learn to navigate the wild, untamed nature of instinct. It might sound naïve... it's not. I feel a more optimistic view of our friends, neighbors, countrymen, and beyond can shift, if we all just sit on the fence a little longer, or at least, look through the gaps to learn a little more about them.
And speaking of metaphors... if a lot of people sat on the fence all at once, what would happen? I believe it would crumble, and as we all fell to the ground, not a soul would be able to contain their laughter at such a great sight.
Food for thought. Thanks for reading.