Michael is German, he is married, he thrives on classical music, and has a passion for sailing. Eric comes from a long line of native Hawaiians, he is single, loves techno dance music, and would rather sit on the beach and watch sailboats.
They are the best of friends.
At one time, both men worked for the same employer, which is how they met. Most of their office time was spent meeting their respective deadlines. But occasionally they found time to discuss everything from a drought in Europe to the plight of students in Iran to the latest digital technology.
They are avid and compassionate world watchers. Sometimes they are other-world watchers. Michael is an astronomy buff, and can talk all about the four moons of Jupiter. Eric, who devours a wide range of books on a regular basis, recently read about the Saudis and how they are coming to terms with the world outside their desert kingdom.
Eric and Michael relish the diversity of views and experiences that come with connecting to a larger world. This comes at a time when social trend-watchers are sounding an alarm over the extraordinary number of people who are disengaging from society.
Market researchers have known for years the tendency to socialize with and live among people whose tastes and preferences are similar to our own. College graduates congregate with other college graduates; blue-collar workers socialize with other blue-collar workers.
This "clustering," as researchers call it, reflects the birds-of-a-feather-flock-together phenomenon. When we are among like-minded people, the thinking goes, we're comfortable. There is less possibility of friction. The smaller the circle, the greater the comfort level.
The problem is, by staying comfortably within small, familiar circles, we become uninvolved with the vast world in which we live. We become disconnected from neighbors - across the ocean and across the street. We know little about their values, desires, concerns, fears, or needs. We're not familiar with how others see the world, and why they see it that way. Misperceptions can develop and divide us. We eventually see no reason to respect, let alone love, one another.
Michael and Eric also share a deep reverence for that cornerstone of Christian teaching: to love one's neighbor as one's self. They live that rule routinely.
You can't help but lose your sense of detachment from others when the desire to know God, the Creator of all, who is infinite Love, becomes the driving force in your life. The naturalness of loving one another becomes as irresistible as it is obvious. In the strong words of the Discoverer of Christian Science: "Is it necessary to say that the likeness of God, Spirit, is spiritual, and the likeness of Love is loving?" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Message to The Mother Church for 1902," p. 8).
In a world where anger erupts quickly, violently, and sometimes globally, is this demand realistic? It's not only realistic but essential to banishing anger. The larger our love, the more consistent our love, the more invariable our love, the less that love's opposite can get a foothold in our lives.
The love that is of God and that is the expression of God's likeness is with us well before outbursts of anger come along. Love is enduring and infinite. It's our nature to love enduringly and expansively, each of us having the same spiritual origin and capacity to do so.
Why shouldn't we get to know this spiritual source better, get to know the love of God that's not only greater than anger but immune to it? This is what we can learn about ourselves and others as we draw closer to God and get to know the world and the children He created.
From this spiritual, non- geographical vantage point, is anyone not a neighbor worth knowing better and loving more?
First published in the Christian Science Sentinel.