Saturday, August 31, 2013

Who Are Our Neighbours?

In a conversation with my father, the following thought popped into my head: it is not that we have no love for our neighbours, but that we have no neighbours to love.

In other words, we (whoever "we" is) have removed neighbours from our life. No longer do people invite their neighbours 'round for dinner. No longer do strangers who could become neighbours need a place to stay for the night. There are hostels for that sort of thing. An excess of money has removed our need to offer hospitality, and increased our capacity to buy it from a company. 

The irony of the lifestyle in a modern city is that people live extremely close together in high-rise apartments, yet they hardly see each other. Nor do they much want to, either. Thus we aim to live lives without neighbours, and we are impressively successful at it. According to Zizek (now that would have been a TV show worth making) the neighbours we do "have" play out their role like staged actors. We encounter them as Truman Burbank encountered them - part of a machine, and powerless to impinge on our lives in any meaningful way. And we are the same for them.

Christ calls Christians to love not only their neighbours but their enemies. I don't even know most of my neighbours' names. And I don't much want to, either. In that I am very much a child of the age we live in. Or to use "Encounter" lingo, an orphan.

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