Monday, March 17, 2008

Walls and Roofs

In this part of Africa rural people live in compounds -- a walled area containing several living structures. Historically the walls and huts are made of grass, and we still saw many of these. But bricks or cement blocks are also used extensively.

Driving south from Dakar towards the Gambia we passed a lot of brick compounds that were completely empty and devoid of any habitation. Just the brick walls surrounding the space. We also saw many concrete huts that were roofless. In fact, in some areas it seemed as if all the huts were roofless and abandoned.

I don't know the reasons for this, but one thing struck me: it's much easier to put up a wall than a roof. A wall lasts, a roof blows away. A wall's weight rests upon itself. The wall depends upon itself. The roof must depend upon the wall. The roof is suspended in the air. The roof must be light -- a wall can be heavy.

And is there a useful metaphor here? Yes! I'm sure of it.

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