Sunday, February 1, 2009

Oh, brother, it's my neighbor again.

To bring to a conclusion the thoughts begun by the last two posts (And next post I'll move on to the topic Austin loves so much):

I find it a struggle to love my neighbor as much as I love mankind. "This makes no sense," you say. "Isn't your neighbor a part of mankind?" Yes, but I quickly forget this. And it's kind of easy to justify. Surely I can't take time to hassle with this one person who's asking for a favor for the umpteenth time this week, because I have many important things to do as part of my great and noble work to save mankind. I feel great compassion for the person I see in a photo-op picture and hear a touching story about, and I love to think of myself as a sympathetic person because I care so much about that person. But when I have to deal with a person's needs directly, I have to deal also with that person's faults.

While the Enlightenment era was in full swing, the president of Princeton, John Witherspoon, told his students to differentiate between two types of emotions: "'particular' affections for local places and specific people, and the clearly superior 'calm and goodwill to all.'" (See Lauren F. Winner in Books and Culture from Sept/Oct 2008). To be a cosmopolitan who acts for society, for mankind, for the common good, is a noble thing. We do well to remember, however, not only the cosmopolitan ideal but concrete acts of love for "local" people right around us.
"God so loved the world that he sent his only son," and when that son arrived he loved specific people who came to him with their problems and issues, and who caused inconveniences to his schedule.

The essence of what I want to say is stated much better by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, so I'll let his words close out the post. This is an idea, a reminder of how to appropriately resond to the problems that come from having sin in the world, that I probably need for myself more than anyone else reading this.

A character in THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV said:

"I love humanity,[...]but I wonder at myself. The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular, that is, separately, as single individuals. In my dreams[...]I have often come to making enthusiastic schemes for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually have faced crucifixion[...]and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together[...]I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I detest men individually the more ardent becomes my love for humanity."

And one more zinger from Dostoevsky's great character Father Zosima:

"Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth."


VentiAmericano said...

Nate, you leave good blog posts. They are short. They are devotional. They are thoughtful.
Is it just possible that I ignore the implicit cries of the individuals I know in my quest to save mankind? Yes, indeed.
Keep them coming!
Why don't more people comment on your good blog posts? If I were me, then I would post on your blog. Oh, I just did.

faithbornfromdoubt said...

I agree with Austin, they are good blog posts. As to why I don't always comment on them... what do you say to devotional material? It gives you things to think about but its hard to really say a lot about it. Maybe you should throw in something really provocative at the end to rile me. I always read them, even though I dont always comment. Is that enough? Am I a good blogging partner? Or am I a jerk?

theone withabeard said...

The important thing is that you put them into practice. Otherwise, you are like a man who built his house on the sand. You don't have to comment on everything; just don't be a sandman, man.