the lives of others

Yesterday I reported on my outing to the Aliens Authority. Since then I have thought a great deal about the ways in which I so often make sense of the world with an “us/me vs. them” mentality. In some ways it is probably easier to keep the familiar in focus by juxtaposing it with some notion of the foreign, however, to assume that my heart, mind and culture(s) are chartered territory is also flawed.

Jack Kerouac said, “All of life is a foreign country,” and Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.” Sometimes we need to let even the familiar take us by suprise and in so doing hold back the waves of fear that tend to crash when we encounter what we believe to be other or foreign, especially in ourselves.

As Albert Schweitzer said, “We cannot possibly let ourselves get frozen into regarding everyone we do not know as an absolute stranger,” or everything we do not know as absolutely strange. This defensive mode of thinking causes us to alienate people, places and cultures and sooner or later we are bound to see the effects in how we relate to our own identity. I will leave with a thought from Victor Hugo: “Civil war? What does that mean? Is there any foreign war? Isn’t every war fought between men, between brothers?”

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