Michael is German, he’s married, he thrives on classical music, and has a passion for sailing. Eric comes from a long line of native Hawaiians, he’s single, loves techno dance music, and would rather sit on the beach and watch sailboats.
They are the best of friends.
At one time, both men worked for the same employer, which is how they met. Most of their office time was spent meeting their respective deadlines. But occasionally they found time to discuss everything from a drought in Europe, to the plight of students in Iran, to the latest digital technology.
They‘re avid and compassionate world watchers. Sometimes they are other-world watchers. Michael is an astronomy buff and can talk all about the four moons of Jupiter. Eric, who devours a wide range of books on a regular basis, recently read about the Saudis and how they are coming to terms with the world outside their desert kingdom.
Eric and Michael relish the diversity of views and experiences that come with connecting to a larger world. This comes at a time when social trend-watchers are sounding an alarm over the extraordinary number of people who are separating themselves from others.
Market researchers have known for years the tendency we have to socialize with and live among people whose tastes and preferences are similar to our own. College graduates congregate with other college graduates; blue-collar workers socialize with other blue-collar workers. Seniors who travel like to mingle with other seniors who travel.
This “clustering,” as researchers call it, reflects the birds-of-a-feather-flock-together phenomenon. When we’re among like-minded people, the thinking goes, we’re comfortable. There’s less possibility of friction. The smaller the circle, the greater the comfort level.
The problem is, by staying comfortably within small, familiar circles, we become strangers in the vast world in which we live. We become disconnected from neighbors, both across the ocean as well as across the street. We know little about their values, desires, concerns, fears, or needs. We’re not familiar with how others see the world, and why they see it that way. Misperceptions can develop and divide us. We eventually see no reason to respect, let alone love one another.
Something else Michael and Eric have in common is a deep reverence for that cornerstone of Christian teaching: to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. They live that rule habitually.
You can’t help but lose your sense of detachment from others when the desire to know God, the Creator of all, who is infinite Love, becomes the driving force in your life. The naturalness of loving one another then becomes as irresistible as it is obvious. In the words of Mary Baker Eddy: “Is it necessary to say that the likeness of God, Spirit, is spiritual, and the likeness of Love is loving?”
In a world where we’ve seen anger develop quickly, sometimes globally, is this demand realistic? It’s not only realistic but essential to the banishment of anger. The larger our love, the more consistent our love, the less that the opposite of love can get a foothold in our lives.
The love that is of God and that’s the natural expression of God’s likeness is with us well before outbursts of anger come along. Love is infinite and enduring. It’s our nature to love consistently and expansively, each of us having the same spiritual origin and capacity to do so.
Why shouldn’t we get to know this spiritual source better, get to know the love of God that’s not only greater than anger but immune to it? This is what we stand to learn about ourselves and our fellow beings as we draw closer to God and get to know the children He created.
From this spiritual vantage point, is there anyone in today’s world who is not to be considered a neighbor worth knowing better and loving more?