As a quick follow-up to last week’s post, I encountered a quotation recently which was super relevant but I forgot to include. No commentary, just a line from the writer James Baldwin who said, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”
What a beautiful thing unconditional love is.
Anyway, we’re in this week now so we’ll move on. This week has held… not a whole lot for me. Surprise. I have fallen once more into the unemployed, unmotivated bleh of nothingness that has become a bit of an annual affair for me. Still applying and things but it’s a big yikes. Whatever.
I have also been reading in the sun, one of my favorite things in the world, as you know. I have been trying to have friends, as you know, and trying to balance being honest about my needs with listening and honoring their needs. It’s hard to do both simultaneously, work in progress.
Because nothing is happening in my life, I would like to talk for a moment about the world and the people in it.
I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned it on here before, but I have been to Russia. Twice, in fact, in the same summer. First, I went on tour with my university choir and then, only a couple weeks after our return, I went to study in St. Petersburg for six weeks. It was such an experience.
It is not my place to give you a rundown on recent Russian political history, current events in Russia, or the geopolitical dynamics involving Russia. Though, if you’re interested, I would encourage even a cursory look into those topics (as long as you remain humble about it; a cursory look isn’t going to make you any kind of expert). But those things are on my mind because things are happening and they matter to me because I’m interested but they also should matter at least a little to you because you’re a part of this world.
I do keep up on world news, because I find it interesting and I have some higher-level background on the subject than others may. And I like to pay special attention to a few places that have grabbed my heart in often random but definitely meaningful ways (see: Croatia). But I bring up Russia as a place to start because I have several memories, specific and vivid (at least relative to my memory) memories, that speak so loudly to the kind of international understanding and across-boundaries/through-barriers camaraderie that is possible among people who are so very different and whose countries are not, shall we say, supposed to be particularly friendly.
Two fictional moments that I ponder often:
- in The Phantom Tollbooth when one of the princesses says “Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in the pond; and whenever you’re sad, no one anywhere can be really happy.”
- in The Two Towers when the ents refuse to act and Pippin says “But you’re a part of this world! Aren’t you?”
We cannot all be responsible for keeping track of all that is going on in the world. And we should not be condemned to perpetual sadness because people somewhere are sad. That is not what I am advocating here. We have to live our lives, as they’re the only ones we’re able to live.
Acknowledging that, however, I think we do bear two responsibilities when it comes to thinking about issues in the world on a global level. First, though we don’t need to keep up with every single thing that is going on (as much as I am an advocate for reading world news), we ought to be aware that things are tough in the world. That we are blessed. That problems exist in other places, for other people, and those problems matter.
Second, as obvious and ridiculous as it may sound, we need to remember that the world is populated by human beings. Some would try to tell us that certain people–from a certain neighborhood/region/country, with a different sexual orientation or gender identity, who speak a different language, who are differently abled, who are otherwise overtly different–are distinct on some fundamental level and that they are not like you. This is a lie. Our differences matter but they are not fundamental. We are we.
I read yesterday that Americans are much more supportive of dropping nuclear bombs on people than I thought. When asked why, many respond that it is a quick, painless death and a sure way to achieve the desired results. But when people are given information about the actual effects are–the horrific, grueling, gruesome effects that nuclear weapons have on the human body–support drops dramatically.
So please. I know that you have to live your lives, that we are all inevitably trapped in a sphere that, on some level, we cannot make any larger. We simply don’t have the capacity. But please, please, care for your fellow people. They are facing problems, too, and they are, deep in their core, exactly like you. Refuse to believe that any human being is less worthy of love, safety, provision, or life.
Loving your neighbor isn’t about who your neighbor is. It’s about who you are.