An intractable problem

We know this, the call to love our neighbor as ourselves. We have heard it many times. But do we live it? Do we live it in our personal lives with those whom we walk through life? Do we live it in our communities and cities? Do you live this call to love in our political lives?

I believe that this central idea of loving our neighbor as ourselves is a core teaching in most of our religious traditions precisely because loving one another – genuinely loving one another across all of our differences in our daily lives – is so incredibly hard. We need to hear it again and again in different languages, through various traditions, and different teachers: Love God, and love one another as ourselves.

Throughout time, we humans have tackled and found ways forward through some of the most intractable dilemmas that have confronted us. We discovered that wheels not only helped speed the production of pottery, but could facilitate the transport of both objects and people. We found that penicillin could stop infections and prevent people from dying from toothaches and minor cuts as well as more serious ailments. We created calendars and mechanical clocks to track time and organize ourselves across multiple locations. We mastered flight to take us from one end of the world to the other in a matter of hours. We discovered that we could harness electricity to provide light in the night, to sustain energy, to wire our homes, and ultimately to shape life as we know it.

And yet, we still can’t figure out how to solve one of the most entrenched and basic obstacles in all of human history: how to help people love one another. How can we build genuine care about the survival, well-being and thriving of those who are “not us”? How do we cultivate responsibility for their daily lives and opportunities, and grow this care regardless of circumstances – meaning regardless of what they think and how they see the world, regardless of what they think and how they see the world, regardless of the choices they have made in the past or are making now. How do we care about their well-being as much as we care about our own – no matter where they were born or whom they love? How do we work both to “see” them and to treat them with dignity in our personal interactions and systemically by assuring that our laws, politics, and cultural norms also support their survival, well-being, and thriving? This requires seeing, hearing, listening, imagining, letting go and wondering.

How we convince people genuinely to care about one another – really love and care about one another as much as we love and care about ourselves and our families – is an intractable problem we have not yet figured out. We have done it neither in our daily interactions and life together nor in our political systems. 

From “Holy Chaos: Creating Connections in Divisive Times” by Amanda Henderson – Chalice Press