From Bondage to the Miracle of Life – Identifying Bondage


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When my son and I traveled to China not long ago, we visited Beijing’s 798 Art Zone, otherwise known as the Dashanzi Art District. There, we saw hundreds of masterpieces by renowned artists from all over the world. Among them, the “Narrow House” by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm intrigued me. The artist clearly wanted visitors to enter his unusual narrow structure filled with compressed furniture. Wurm hoped we would become a part of his art, thereby developing a “feeling” toward his subject. He apparently hoped this “feeling” would then affect our thinking and encourage us to apply it to our lives. It is a rare opportunity to be able to go inside a work of art, so we eagerly awaited our turn.
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“Narrow House” is indeed a very thin house, and the hallway accommodates only one person at a time. Frankly, we did not really understand what the artist wanted us to feel. We just felt the house contained everything we would need despite its slender profile. Yet we also sensed that we were somewhat restricted and trapped by the narrow space. Physically, it was uncomfortable, and it felt good to exit into a more open area. Still, I did not “get it” until I saw another work of his – a house hanging over the edge of a building, apparently about to fall to the ground. When I put these two together, I got the whole picture. It is a box – a confined box or, to put it a little differently, bondage.
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It seems that both houses were meant to represent the viewer’s home, a place where people should feel secure and comfortable. The narrow house shows us we can find everything even though the space is unusually confined. Being in this house for a long time gets us accustomed to it. Somehow we let go of its imperfection. We try to adapt to it, and as a result we gradually and unknowingly fall into this formless trap – bondage. Who would think that this might eventually have tragic consequences?

Seeing the crazily tilted house on top of the building, I visualized it falling to the ground and being smashed to pieces. The whole house would be gone. Nothing left. Zip. Zero. Nada. Suddenly, I saw the light and realized the implication of the “narrow house.” It looked like a home, but it lacked a home’s quality and character. Its narrowness made me feel bound, trapped and unfree – unlike a real home where we experience security, comfort and freedom. If we are deceived by its appearance, and remain inside, we will eventually be crushed together with the tilted house when it falls.

The scene seemed quite familiar to me; I felt I had seen it somewhere. And all of a sudden, it hit me. It had happened to my husband, and my heart started to pound. Oh, God, why had I not realized this earlier? Why didn’t I see that box in time to keep the house from falling and breaking into pieces? My husband might have been saved.

My thoughts quickly turned to the past. The clock rewound many years. One night my husband, who worked at the Department of Genetics at the university, got a notice that his whole department would be disbanded. The reason was that its laboratory was no longer to be given specimens from patients. Without the funding and income derived from providing services to patients, the laboratory had no choice but to close down. As many people were speculating, perhaps what the department lacked was a community liaison to bring patients in for services.

My husband had been in charge of the lab. After getting blood samples from patients, the technicians analyzed them. My husband then summarized the findings and provided the results to the physicians so they could discuss them with their patients. He was not involved in public relations work. So there was nothing he could do. He felt helpless.

My husband took the news of the lab’s closing hard. Being in that box for so long, he did not know how to get out. The truth is, he was constrained by the bondage of the box. He felt there was no way out. Worrying about not being able to support the kids and family, he was depressed and was soon afterward diagnosed with cancer. To decrease the pressure on him, I rushed to find work. The job I found was incredibly far from home, and I had to spend three hours commuting back and forth.

I, too, was trapped in the same narrow way of thinking. At the time, I thought only of earning money so I could solve our problem, but I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture. In other words, I failed to recognize that the problem resided in an inner mental block, not in anything external, like money. Ultimately, my husband became so ill that I had to quit my job to stay home and care for him.

After quitting this exhausting job, I found time to research ways to help get my husband out of this circumstance. I went to the library and found an answer. I learned that his illness came from his mental block, which was the box that kept him from finding his way out of this unpleasant situation. We kept our hopes up and changed our frame of mind, learning to think positively. We also practiced a method suggested in one of Tony Robbins’ books – Giant Steps (Day 48) – to laugh for a minute five times a day. Actually laughter stimulates our heartbeat, helps us inhale more oxygen and improves our circulation. More importantly, it helps exercise the cells of our organs and decreases stress.

Our efforts seemed to work, and my husband’s condition began to improve. We thought he was on the road to recovery. Unfortunately, the hospital decided he should undergo surgery right after chemotherapy. It was too soon, and he did not recover from the operation. A month later, he passed away.

After his passing, I went to his office to clean up. It made me realize that he had been in a box for too long. It had been more than fifteen years, and we had not noticed the existence of the box. There were no windows in his office; it was a rather unpleasant place to be. I was so sorry I had not paid attention to his surroundings while he was alive. The most terrible thing that had happened to him, I believed, was facing the rooms of the laboratory being emptied and then occupied, one after another, by different departments following the announcement of his own department’s closing.

Artist Erwin Wurm’s narrow house poses what he calls “some deep and disturbing questions about the terror that comes from having our personal space constricted, restricted or invaded.” Here, I realized that my husband’s space had been constricted, restricted and invaded. It was so real and too harsh for anyone to endure. What emotional stress he had had to go through! After cleaning up his things, I sat down quietly and finally perceived the basic problem – the stress that led to cancer was from not being able to get out of this box.

Recalling the past, I realized we had both been unaware that this box even existed. No matter how I may regret this lack of awareness, I cannot call my husband back. After learning the hard way, I can only hope that I will be more alert to the presence of boxes like this. Once we get out of our boxes, we can see the sky, which is free of boundaries and full of hope.

Note: In view of insights I have gained recently, I have edited, modified and combined two articles I previously posted in this blog. I hope this revised article will help readers better understand and benefit from the points I am making. The earlier articles are as follows:

Think Outside The Box


(Think Outside The Box)

Erwin Wurm-Narrow House


(Erwin Wurm-Narrow House)

Reference:
http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/erwin-wurm-narrow-house

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