In forensic sciences there is a principle known as Locard’s exchange principle which states that the perpetrator of a crime will bring something into the crime scene and leave with something from it, and that both can be used as forensic evidence. Although these words written by Locard was, “It is impossible for a criminal to act, especially considering the intensity of a crime, without leaving traces of this presence.”
Nevertheless setting aside crime scenes, what was dwelling in my mind were two words “exchange” and “traces”. Although the principle above may sound simple, what one fails to realize is that our every human interaction and relationship works on exchange and traces. There is an exchange of human emotions, ideas, behaviour, words and actions leaving behind imprints or traces in the near or distant future behaviour or interactions. Along the exchanges, sometimes we end up in having misconceptions, misunderstandings and mistrust, finally leading to innumerable issues. While some issues may be genuine and easily resolvable by a little give and take, others may either be irrevocably knotty or may be there as courtesy of making a mountain out of a molehill. Yet the catch is that we will never know unless we try.
Human relationships are of a very fragile nature. They need a lot of care and fostering to maintain and grow. Even the ones that seem rock solid might falter if the small pebbles strewn in the path aren’t cleared. On the other hand walls and fences are rock solid and never crumble, but they are meant for walling in or isolation. Until we learn to build bridges to keep the flow of exchange of ideas, emotions and interactions, we wouldn’t be able to leave behind traces either. After all life without meaning is purposeless, for what everyone wants among the deepest desire buried in their hearts is to be wanted and loved. Then on, the rest will follow.
As the story between the two brothers go, everyday we have the choice of building fences or bridges. One leads to isolation and the other to openness. Yet the final decision is ours to make. While we need to know which bridges to cross or which to burn, sometimes we need more than one chance to decide the outcome of whether to cross the bridge or not. Either way the course of action is ours to decide and the sequelae that follows, we ourselves will have to face.
The two brothers
Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labour and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence. One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days work,” he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?” “Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbour. In fact, it’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence – an 8-foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place anymore. Cool him down anyhow.” The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”
The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day.
The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, and nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge – a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work – handrails and all – and the neighbour, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched. “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.” The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. “No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother. “I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, ” but I have many more bridges to build.”
Everyday we have the choice of building fences or bridges. One leads to isolation and the other to openness.