Had an interesting weekend, as I attended a discussion about the book, “The Art of Neighboring” and the challenge that went with it to learn the names of the eight neighbors around me. (NB: think of a tic-tac-toe board with your house in the middle and your physical geographical neighbors that would inhabit the other eight squares). I was able to list three, I would have gotten four but one neighbor recently moved. I’ve lived here longer than any place else I’ve ever lived, and I’m failing at the basic step of a neighbor, namely calling them by name.
Of course it doesn’t help my self-esteem to be handed this challenge in light of Jesus’ words affirming the young man that repeated, “Love your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself” as a summary of the scriptures, and telling him to go and do likewise. The bit of shame is further ground in when looking at the text and reading the young person used the following to try and weasel out from the command:
Who is my neighbor?
In this modern world, we have tried to re-define our neighbors, as a matter of fact you might have stopped by this post because of a link on Facebook, and if you did… welcome Neighbor! I wouldn’t blink an eye, to call you my neighbor in this electronic age that has made distances shrink, and relationships grow across the magic of the internet. I’ve even been to talks where this ‘quasi’-neighbor is heralded as an extension of the great commandment. It’s really easy to pat one’s self on the back about how great a neighbor one is to their electronic friends.
Then, I look at that tic-tac-toe board and wonder about the names of whosie-whatist across the street, or loud-trampoline-family kitty-corner in the back alley, or mr. always-has-the-garage-door-closed two hows down from him.
I really have no excuse, it isn’t that hard to learn people’s names. But if I learn their names, I’d have to use it when I say hello, and if I use it to say hello, I might have to ask, “how are you?” and if I asked that, I’d have to listen to the answer, and if I listened to the answer I might be able to help, and …
Not to sound like a DirecTV commercial, or a children’s book about feeding pancakes to pigs, but at the end of that stream of thought is something dangerous! Actually getting involved with strangers! My mother warned me about them!
But if I knew their name, they wouldn’t be a stranger.
I’ve also been reading The Hobbit, and how hard it was for Bilbo to leave Bag’s End and start on his adventure. I read often in the narrative about how he wishes he was home in his hobbit hole enjoying second breakfast (and if there is anything we should learn from Tolkien is the importance of second breakfast, if not elevensies) and smoking on his pipe (so long as you live in Washington or Denver, I suppose). How in the midst of the terror and fear of the adventure he could always remember home.
So I have a quandry, stay cozy in my hole, or learn the names of my neighbors. My real. Physical. Literal. Neighbors.
To add to this, there was a final paragraph in a review for the movie Her I read, copied here without further comment:
For this segment of the population anyway, we may be over-thinking the hangups with marriage. It’s not necessarily an outgrowth of economics, public policy, sociology, or religious belief. It might just be that love is hard. And, increasingly, ‘hard’ is something we’re not willing to do.
(how hard is it to learn a name?)