A much-awaited highlight of my China journey was climbing and walking along the Great Wall. This wall dates its beginnings back to 214 BC, though the portion of the Great Wall near Beijing where I climbed are remains from the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). I overheard one visitor on the Wall ask his guide, "How long did it take to build the Great Wall?" The guide replied, "We are still building it," referring to the constant process of repair. The Great Wall is not a continuous wall but rather a collection of short walls that often follow the crest of hills on the southern edge of the Mongolian plain. Overall, the wall extends about 1500 miles (2400 kilometers).
The Great Wall is very rich with history and lore, especially if you enjoy stories of ancient Chinese dynasties. This military history is lost on me, but realizing the age and sheer size of the wall is awe-inspiring. There is an air of excitement walking along The Great Wall with people from so many different nations who also recognize this landmark as a man-made wonder of our world.
Since returning, I have been contemplating the significance of the Great Wall and the metaphorical Great Wall in my own life. I see that we build our own Great Wall to separate ourselves, possibly for protection from threat, real or imagined, just as the warring Chinese dynasties did centuries ago. Walls separate us from others, and even from the truth about ourselves. Sometimes, on the journey of opening, we hit our own 'wall'. We can't see through it, and we can't seem to get around it. We may feel stopped, stuck, or trapped. The wall may seem as solid as one built of bricks and mortar, or invisible, only to be bumped into in the dark. I see that even on the "safe side" of the wall, we are not free. This wall is not removed with our hands, nor with our minds. This wall is shattered with the opening of our hearts.