We have met many people in the last few months. Some remained strangers, some became friends. Most we won’t see again. Of course, in these foreign lands, it is we who are the strangers.
“And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt,” the Bible reminds us. But how can we love foreigners, if we often have trouble loving those who aren’t? How can we love others if we have trouble loving ourselves? T.S. Eliot reminds us that we have to get to know ourselves and each other anew every day. The only constant in life is change, after all.
We die to each other daily.
What we know of other people
Is only our memory of the moments
During which we knew them. And they have changed since then.
To pretend that they and we are the same
Is a useful and convenient social convention
Which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember
That at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.
T. S. Eliot
We are living in strange times. Not too long ago, our parents warned us to never get into a stranger’s car. Now we summon strangers and their cars with the push of a button. We have a million ways to connect with strangers and friends, yet many friends become estranged, and many strangers never become friends.
The stranger is simply a friend I haven’t met yet.
We are often strangers to ourselves, not knowing what to do, not understanding our actions, wants or needs. This is as obvious as it is interesting, and for reasons which I can’t articulate very well yet, I am quite convinced that it has to be this way. I might entertain this thought another time. For now, I will have to entertain four strangers.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Paul of Tarsus, Hebrews 13:2
How well can we ever get to know a stranger? How well can we get to know ourselves? Is this even desirable, or should we just be comfortable with the stranger in each and every one of us?
I try to be comfortable, and I think I am getting better at it. For example, I do not consider myself to be particularly religious. Yet it is the bible which I have quoted three times while writing this. Strange, isn’t it.
I have been a stranger in a strange land.
Moses, Exodus 2:22