Come To Think Of It: My Country is My Mother

I read an advertisement today raving about streaming a fireworks show from the air conditioned comfort of one’s living room, where the decibels will be more conducive to the dog’s delicate disposition, and one may be free from the aerial assault of Fourth of July mosquitoes. Apparently there is even an app one can use to simulate a pyrotechnic celebration in the darkened sky of one’s cellphone. If that is how you will be observing Independence Day, I suppose you have that freedom to do so. But if you would like to know why I’d never live-stream fireworks or play Pyro-Arcade in lieu of attending a fireworks display or, better, putting one on myself, the answer is simply that it isn’t American and it isn’t honoring America.

What is America? I suppose the question must be asked in preparing to celebrate one’s country, but the question is at once too general and too specific. It is like asking, “Who is my Mother?” You could answer, “The woman who gave me life,” but that is true of all mothers as it is true of all countries. Then again you could answer, “The woman with the amber necklace who smells of vanilla and cream and tobacco when I hug her,” but those details are far too intimate to be of any help in understanding the mother’s personality, just as it would be difficult to describe one’s country by such intimate details.

I could ask where my Mother or my country comes from, but that would only turn up more questions of nationality, like “What is Poland?” or “What is Britain?”

Is it even necessary to ask the question? Surely the citizen knows his country as the son knows his mother, and to ask the question somewhat smacks of irreverence.

I know my country like I know my mother. She is beautiful and tranquil and sad like red wine clouds hanging over a beer-foam tide, palm tree silhouetted like so many idle laurels waving in the sea breeze.

Or she is the Colossal Canyon, misnamed “Grand,” which stretches out arms as wide as deep, channeled by ancient streams of blood and water.

Her lands are low as the caverns beneath the earth, entombing the very mysteries of existence with the diamonds, or seemingly clipping the stars with her white-capped peaks.

My Mother, whose mind is open like the plains of Iowa, lets the sunshine nourish and fructify her thoughts by the light of justice and truth, until—at last—a late but bountiful harvest of peace and prosperity is brought into the barn.

She’s any number of dark and disturbing forests, where legends are born, live and die, and buried in unmarked graves, like some noble Indian Chief, cut down by a tomahawk like a stalk of corn.

She’s the land between two infinities, the Pacific and the Atlantic, which together encircle the world as the mighty Oceanus, transporting the wealth of all the peoples of the world to her shores, where she mightily sets them to use and good.

And my Mother is of two moods or minds, at once permissive but also oppressive, allowing liberty while disallowing life, magnanimous with mere information but a miser with truth, a woman inebriated by amorality yet with laws as sober as a judge at court, a veritable Tale of Two Countries, variations on a theme of Right and Left.

My mother is this and so much more than I can say, that I simply am silent as the mosquitoes bite my legs, and the dog cowers in the corner between the thunder and lightning and rain shower of light, as a tear of wonder and gratitude falls to the ground, the land that gave me birth.

Come to think of it, my country is my mother.

Come to Think of It: The meaninglessness of man

Electronic communication has given a whole new meaning to the word ephemera. And as writing began in stone and in its current form, secured somehow in the ether of electronic coding, I fear for our children’s children who may be disinherited from the literary traditions of history, not to mention one’s written language itself.

Just where language came from is as mysterious as life itself, if not more mysterious. We are perplexed by the hippopotamus, with its largeness and hunger for tons of grass or whatever is a hippo’s daily bread; but we are perhaps unspeakably bewildered at the thought of a hippo praying before it gorges itself yet again on another ton of turf. The idea of a hippo talking is incongruous with our cognitive habits because we are intellectual snobs in the society of the world’s species.

But wherever language came from, which is probably the same place life came from (read here God Almighty), it is not altogether certain that language will endure, at least as written.

We as a species seem to be either devolving or evolving, I can’t say which. Modern day electronic communication proceeds from the principle that less is more, when, with the medium of language and the written word, the very opposite is true.

Thus we text a smiley emoji to indicate our pleasure at someone’s equally curt compliment about our new haircut. I suppose in such things, more isn’t much needed, but such a habit carries over into heavier moments of one’s life, like birth and death and marriage.

These events are oftentimes acknowledged with the same brevity and inhuman distance as a smiley emoji by a very short text like: “Grandpa past away today.” I speak from experience, because that is how I was informed of the passing away of my own father’s father.

In more formal and human epochs—like two decades ago before text messaging—the notice of a loved one’s passing was usually given in person, with sorrow mitigated by warm affection and moving words, however learned, because these were tempered by an equally warm and affectionate tone; or by telephone call which transported at least the tone.

I say we may be evolving or devolving, and the way we use language is the reason. It may be that man’s thought and expression will become all feeling and all analytics or mathematics, that he will perfectly express all he has to say on his wedding day, for instance, by a kiss and the formula 1+1=1, but somehow that may be a cause for confusion. In words, “The two shall become one” is perfectly intelligible, because the thought, being mystical, is easily conveyed in the mystical medium of words. But in pure feeling or pure number, man is diminished, and his world shrunk like a juicy grape into a dried up raisin.

There’s a vision of the caveman, homo erectus, with his sunken skull and club and hairy back doodling with a rock pencil on the wall of a cave by the light of a Promethean fire. There’s another vision, of modern man hunched over his cellphone thumbing away the words and thoughts and criticisms of his age. The scrawling scratches of the half-wit in the cave have endured tens of thousands of years, and probably will be there tens of thousands more. I doubt this article will last more than a day or two, but will probably end up going down the memory hole.

Come to think of it, man isn’t so much evolving into a superman or devolving into his pre-historic former self but is simply becoming smaller and more insignificant in the precise meaning of the word—man is becoming meaningless because he is meaning less and less in what he writes by the minute.

The Black Man’s Jubilee

In light of the holiday Juneteenth, the day on which a vast body of enslaved black men, women and children were declared free from their white masters and captors, I wonder what the term really means. Not the word, ‘Juneteenth’, for that doesn’t mean anything at all, at least in an etymological sense. The word is a contraction of June and nineteenth, but who first contracted it is a mystery to me and Mr. Google, only that the contraction happened sometime in the late nineteenth century. Rather, I am more concerned and perplexed by the word freedom. What does it mean to be free? 

Surely freedom means not having to pick another man’s cotton because he tells you to. That kind of freedom, freedom from being a working slave to a master, is what Juneteenth celebrates.

But there are other kinds of slavery. One is not altogether free if he must beg on the side of the street for his daily bread, like the emaciated black man I saw this morning at the corner of University Mall in Carbondale, holding a red sign beneath the traffic lights. Yes, of course, the man has the choice to stand at the corner and beg or go to a shelter and simply stand in line for some food. But I suspect that the thin and tired looking man did not look like that because he wanted food, at least not directly. He was most likely a drug addict and wanted money for more drugs. 

The tragic irony is that the man I saw was literally drowning in a sea of prosperity, of currents of wealth and the means of material acquisition bustling all about him. Just across the road fifty feet away stood Taco Bell, where the man could have been hired on the spot for a team member position beginning at $14 dollars an hour, an entire dollar more than minimum wage. Assuming no overtime, speciality pay, etc., that is bringing home $29,120 a year. And did I mention Taco Bell offers free and discounted food and drinks for its employees? 

But the chains that kept that man captive were invisible, and those prevented him from walking over to Taco Bell for a paycheck and a life off the street. Who put those chains on him, the white man? Hardly. What is more than likely, he put them on himself when he turned to drugs to escape a childhood full of pain, perhaps from an absent or drug-addict father who never taught him to be a man, let alone a free man.  

Freedom means being free from things which hinder us from acting as we would like or ought to act. In early America, slavery took the form of forced work, chains, and the lash. Today, slavery takes the form of addiction, ignorance, and vice. In the days of early American slavery, one could hear a black man under a burning sun singing in some cotton field a hymn of hope and jubilee. That man, though a slave before man, was a freeman before God, and secretly he knew it, which is why he sang in the sun. On the other hand, the manacled black man of today thinks he is free, but he is enslaved by a thousand different chains which hinder his movements at every turn. He stands on the street corner looking pitiful and small and does not sing. He cannot walk fifty feet to a trendy, colorful and air-conditioned restaurant which will pay him almost $30,000 to do what he is already doing in the street and sun because his mind and will are enslaved. 

Come to think of it, I cannot fully celebrate Juneteenth, because I am still waiting on the black man’s jubilee.        

New Background and Text Colors Needed!

I have heard readers complain about the text and background colors for too long now, and I must do something.

I have not wanted to change the color scheme because I always thought it was perfect for the theme of an eclipse: dark, warm tones.

But the colors are not conducive to an enjoyable reading experience. So I want to open up the comments for suggestions on what colors I might try. If there is a clear winner, I will use the suggested scheme, otherwise I will try black on white.

So leave your comments below of which colors to use for the background and text of CE!

Come to think of it: Words represent the world

It is a common practice today among different levels of society to treat words as mere sounds we utter with our throats and mouth-parts to articulate our own subjective thoughts and desires. Words indeed do this, but the point I would like to make is that they do not only do this. Words have a higher calling and nobler purpose than the mere articulation of our own wills. Words also articulate our intellects. At the heart of the spoken word is a piece of the world separated and colored by countless generations of people speaking their world in words. At once, destroy the link between words and the world, and language quickly devolves into shackles and chains of the body and mind. 

Man (or woman, of course) is also made up of words: the words he uses, and the words used to describe him, the words he knows, and, more oftentimes, the words he doesn’t know. Modern materialistic man of the atheistic ilk would have us believe that man is only matter, made up of bone, flesh and blood, and the subatomic stuff that composes those. But this is false on even a materialistic model of existence. 

Man is first and foremost a political animal, as Aristotle says, not because he can yelp like an animal in pain, but because man, among all the animals, has speech. “But speech,” Aristotle says, “is designed to indicate the advantageous and the harmful, and therefore also the right and the wrong; for it is the special property of man in distinction from the other animals that he alone has perception of good and bad and right and wrong and the other moral qualities, and it is partnership in these things that makes a household and a city-state.”

It is easy to see, then, that if the language of a “city-state” or nation, like America, for instance, losses its sense of right and wrong, the cause must be traced back to a loss of meaning in words, for speech is what denotes right and wrong according to how things are. 

Call a black man something other than a man, and he is treated like something other than a man. Call a baby in the womb something other than a baby, and he is treated like something other than a baby. Call a man a woman, or woman a man, and the meaning of right and wrong about these word entities and the class of people they represent will be corrupted and eventually destroyed beyond recognition.

We look around us and are appalled by the moral outrage that goes on in this country and in our communities, but without the use of a language which represents reality, which calls to mind the rightness and wrongness of acts, we are imprisoned in our own collapsing language. 

We can’t say, “Man” if our neighbor insists upon calling himself “Woman,” because we and our neighbor inhabit two different worlds. Our language no longer represents the same reality. We can’t say “Baby” while our neighbor says “Clump of Cells,” because a baby is more than a clump of cells, just as a Black man is more than the mere pigment of his skin. 

Of course the social evils extend far beyond the abortion or transgender or racist questions. These are always ready at hand for the journalist. I could also speak to the word “Marriage” meaning an indissoluble bond between a man and a woman, but that fight was lost decades ago in the arena of language, just as so many before it have been, and so many will to come. 

Come to think of it, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” but in the end, there will be no word, because the word will not be with God, and the word will not be of God, because the word will not represent the world.  

Come to think of it: Transhumanism

The publication that I write my Come to think of it column thought that opinion piece was too controversial to publish. I will leave it to my thoughtful readers to ascertain the reason why.

The transhumanist ideal is to use technology to make man more capable, but such technological improvement stands in the same relation to man as a crutch stands to an invalid with a broken leg.

All this talk about transgenderism makes me worried that there is something on the horizon so horrible one would rather not think on it, and transgenderism may just be the first step to transhumanism, which is the final solution, to coin a phrase. 

The idea in transgenderism and transhumanism is the same: the artificial replacement and construction of a new or improved biological entity through technological intervention. Transgenderism may be the nascent ideological and technological development of a deeper and darker movement toward replacing man as such with machines.  

Postgenderism, for instance, seeks the elimination of gender in the human species by applying advanced biotechnology and assisted reproductive technologies to normal healthy human beings. True, the thinkers behind this idea say it is “voluntary,” and stress ethical considerations along the way, but ethics has little meaning anymore when human nature is denatured, since all ethical considerations are based upon nature and primary principles of reason, like do goodavoid evil, and such.

In C.S. Lewis’s third installment of his space trilogy series, That Hideous Strength, we get a glimpse perhaps into where all this trans talk is going–and it isn’t good. Ultimately, the end-game for the transhumanists depicted in Lewis’s science fiction is to replace organic man with an inorganic existence, which will end, so the story goes, all death, sickness, poverty, ignorance, and, generally, human misery. The assumption is, I suppose, that if we cut off our heads, we won’t complain of headaches. (The story has a man’s head in a vat of liquid, fed by wires and oxygen: the futurist form of advanced human life and prosperity.)  

Though Lewis may have gone a little far in exaggerating the faults of the transhumanist movement of his day, the ideas swirling around today, though less hideous, are nevertheless just as silly. 

Take, for instance, the idea that human beings can be improved through technology. First off, one of the principles of reason is that no effect is greater than its cause. Thus, whatever technological advancement man can try to make upon humanity as a whole, that piece of machinery will not be more advanced than the man who came up with it. Technology may improve men, but it cannot improve man, since a man made it. 

Ultimately, then, the transhumanist movement is not about improving man as such, but men, with this catch, that the improvers neither can be improved–because they invented the improvement–nor would they desire to be. That’s because technological innovation of man, transhumanism at its core, is only for the weak, not the strong.  

Think I’m making this up? Elon Musk, the tech-tycoon who is famous for his innovative enterprises from space flight to electric cars, is also wanting to make man-machines, or brain-computer interfaces through an injectable mesh-like neural lace.

In a Tweet a few years ago, Musk said, “Creating a neural lace is the thing that really matters for humanity to achieve symbiosis with machines.” The idea is that, as AI becomes more mainstream, humanity will have to adapt to avert the fate of becoming “house cats” to the AI, who will have all the good jobs. Man must, Musk says, go along to get along by becoming a machine himself. 

Come to think of it, I doubt Musk will be injecting his brain with any neural lace anytime soon, since, being the richest man in the world, he is in no danger of losing his job to AI technology–since he invents it.  

Come to think of it: Spring cleaning

It is spring, and that means taking our rugs out into the open and clean air and beating them with a broom to get all the dirt out of them. It is also Holy Week, the days recounting the time our Lord was beaten, to get the dirt out of our souls.

There are a number of theories which might account for why people clean their homes in the spring, but the most evident reason to my sensibilities is that spring is fresh and new, and we only want to imitate nature and become fresh and new ourselves. 

The desire to be physically clean, to have our homes cleansed by a mop and duster, and our house aired out with open windows is a metaphor for a deeper reality and yearning we all have, believers and non-believers alike, but often we focus on the wrong things to clean.

Some turn to more healthy habits like diet and exercise, while others think that a new hobby will rub away the rust that has collected on their souls. Still others offer time and talent in volunteering with their favorite society or group. All these things are good, but they don’t clean the soul.

There are so many in the country who are post-Christians, who have dirty souls, while maintaining the veneer of being believers, but the LORD has already spoken to these:   

“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but within you are full of rapine and uncleanness. Thou blind Pharisee, first make clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, that the outside may become clean,” (Matthew 23:25-26).

I do not want to sound “preachy” since this is no place to preach, and I am no preacher. I am a fellow sinner. I am also a Christian and an American, and I think that more and more, those two great empires built upon belief are becoming evermore remote from each other. America is no longer Christian as it once attempted to be in the public square.  

Genocide of the unborn, human trafficking, drug addiction, and all manner of uncleanliness has saturated the American people from the top down, a nation in need of a spring cleaning of its soul. But the question is, where do we go to get clean? 

People can go to rehabilitation centers to get clean from their drugs, or they can talk to their psychologists to get a clean conscience, but where do they go to clean out the bitterness in the will, or the lust in the heart, or the anger and hate in the soul? 

A bottle of Windex or Oxi Clean won’t do. We can scrub our floors and scour our walls but the house of our bodies which is our soul will remain unclean unless we address the cause of the uncleanliness which is not physical but spiritual. 

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us,” (1 John 1:9-10). 

Many readers may love Donald Trump. Many may hate him. Many may think he is a fake Christian, while others believe he is genuine in his faith. Whether he is guilty of the crimes he is accused of, the court process may reveal in short order. But like Trump, we all will stand before a just and almighty Judge who will demand us to give an account of our life’s deeds. 

Come to think of it, David was caught in an affair, too. But far from denying wrongdoing, the worthy King beat his breast like a rug and cried out to the LORD with a heavy heart:  

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy. And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity. Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin,” (Psalm 50:3-4).

May we Christian Americans, and the first among us, do the same.   

Home Alone Means Home Alone

It has been awhile since my last post. Since I have been busy trying this whole working man thing, I have had little time for the blog. The reason is, I suppose, that I feel sometimes as though either I have said all that needs saying or there aren’t really many people out there who are so radical as to be actually Catholic.

Be that as it may, I did want to slip on here and type out a quick post to say hello, and to offer a word of caution regarding this website as well as others.

You see, when we decided to stay away from non-Catholic clergy, and by extension non-Catholic fellow parishioners, we laid upon ourselves a heavy burden, one which our Lord in the desert felt so immensely we could hardly compare or comprehend. His friends were the Angels in his isolation. Do we befriend the Angels in our isolation and desert walk?

There is a danger that, in separating ourselves from the false communion of non-Catholics, clinging to God, His Church, and true doctrine, we become so self-referential and isolated and lonely that, if we do not become crazy, we drift back to the Novus Ordo parish nearest our house, for nothing other than the hospitality and friendship awaiting us there.

I will not say these are bad. We were made for each other, human beings, and we do not thrive and become happy separated. Still that does not mean we have to surrender our religious principles. Let me explain.

All of us, from the lonely old man to the young lady, we all have habits of mind and hobbies we enjoy. We like to think about things, and do things that we are good at or would like to. I know among you with whom I have corresponded over the years that there are musicians, poets, historians, artists, and so much more.

If you feel lonely, do not seek out comfort where you are to compromise your holy religion. Go to where there are other commonalities. Cultivate friendships with fellow artists or musicians. Start up a historic society in your town with monthly meetings at your library. In sum, get out there. But don’t return to the place you are surely to lose your soul or wrack up years in purgatory through spiritual lethargy inculcated there!

Another word of warning. Do not depend upon websites and website personalities—even like this one—to fill that human contact void. The danger is, if and when an error, sometimes a very grievous error, is published on a website you very much like the author of, you will think the error less than, or not an error at all, and be deceived into thinking a lie.

That is the danger, that in your isolation as a Home Alone Catholic, you may succumb to the wiles of a cult leader. I need not name names. I myself may be that cult leader for you, which I would rather delete this website than let happen. I only keep it up because I think the risk of that is relatively low, since I try to keep things at a very low threshold of intellectual demand, so people don’t get confused and so I don’t make any of those grievous errors.

Home Alone means home alone. We may not have any real Catholics nearby to commune with, and those on websites may be compromised for one reason or another. But that doesn’t mean we cannot have a kind of secular communion with our neighbors who may like backgammon or cribbage as much as we.

So, if you are feeling lonely and isolated in the desert this Lent, good! It means you are closer to imitating our Lord. But don’t think it is a compromise to your Catholic faith to be a friend to a non-Catholic.

Besides, it might just be an opportunity to evangelize.

Come to think of it: Who does St. Patrick’s Day belong to?

One “wokism” which the world is enthralled with is cultural appropriation, and socially crucifying anyone who does it. But the one culture which has any rights to be up in arms about any inappropriate appropriation of its identity is the one culture as silent as a lamb – while the rest of the cultures of the world howl like she-wolves in the outer dark. 

For those who don’t know, cultural appropriation is when one culture, say, a predominately white European American culture, calls its team mascot by the name of another people, or uses images associated with that people – even when that people is native to the land of said white European American culture. This habit of copying or using other cultures is considered a kind of exploitation, especially when it involves the religious symbols, fashions, language or music of a people. 

One hot-topic item has been the exploitation of the Native American warbonnet, a ceremonial headdress worn by decorated and honored Native Americans. As one Cherokee academic, Adrienne Keene, said in The New York Times, speaking of non-Native Americans wearing warbonnets: 

“When it becomes a cheap commodity anyone can buy and ear to a party, that meaning is erased and disrespected, and Native peoples are reminded that our cultures are still seen as something of the past, as unimportant in contemporary society, and unworthy of respect.” 

Keene has a point. Surely sacred garments, or anything sacred of a culture, shouldn’t be reduced to a “cheap commodity,” because the sacredness of the artifact is reduced to insignificance. Perhaps it would be wrong of the world to commercialize Christmas, that is, Christ-Mass, or decorate Easter eggs, the symbol of the Resurrection, or exchange St. Valentine cards, host Halloween parties, or, heaven forbid, wear green t-shirts in remembrance of Saint Patrick who vanquished Irish paganism from the green Isle over 1500 years ago.  

I could go on and talk about how the world has stolen so much more from Catholic culture, like hospitals, universities, science, law, art, and, well, everything else in Western Civilization, only that would be foolish, because these things were not stolen by the world but given to the world by God through the Church. The Catholic Church, unlike wokism, is very generous with its gifts of grace. 

Saint Patrick, for instance, was given to Ireland – and eventually the world – by God in the fifth century, to liberate the Irish culture from false gods like Crom Cruach who demanded human sacrifice. One religious symbol of Saint Patrick’s spiritual conquest of Ireland is the shamrock. 

Friday March 17 marks the death and feast day of Saint Patrick. Even as early as the end of February, shamrocks began to sprout up, as by magic or miracle, in grocery store checkouts. But this clover becoming a universal symbol for everything Irish is not understood absent any mention of the Holy Trinity – the only reason for its significance at all. Without the Catholic Faith in the Holy Trinity, the shamrock is a piece of grass or weed, hardly the stuff of cultural iconography. 

So, come Friday please attend a St. Patrick’s Day parade and party, and wear green and wave your shamrocks and drink beer – which the monks saved for you, by the way, from the dark ages – as much as your heart’s desire. As a Catholic and not a “wokester,” I don’t mind a wink. That’s because beer, shamrocks, and the color green don’t belong to me, but the Catholic Church which gave these things significance and gave them as gifts to an ungrateful world.  

Come to think of it, Saint Patrick doesn’t belong to the Irish, either. He belongs to God.         

Thou Shalt Talk to Thy Neighbor

The Lord commanded us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We were told that all the law is based on these two commandments. But, there is another law everyone ought to equally obey, and that is, Thou shalt talk to thy neighbor.   

This past Sunday, I was strolling my son around our little neighborhood, and, having successfully seen no one along the way, I was turning the corner for home when I caught sight of my neighbor working on his truck. Instantly a sense of discomfort shot through me like a syringe of icy saline, for I noticed that he noticed me and was prepared – against all common decency and unspoken mores – to stop and talk to me. 

I am not shy. I do not find talking to people difficult – I am a journalist after all. But when it comes to talking to neighbors, I get queasy in my stomach, like I am a little boy talking with a new old uncle. Why is this? 

One reason might be that, just like the old uncle, the neighbor knows a little (or a lot) about me, even though he hasn’t met me, unlike a complete stranger on a bus or at a grocery store, who knows no more of me than Adam. There is a loss of privacy with our neighbor, which makes talking a little awkward, since we think we know something about each other already, and we know they know something about us. We observe our neighbors closely – it is something of a habit or hobby of mine, though I seldom if ever talk to them. When we do, though, we learn that no amount of observation prepares us for what we might learn in a five minute chat on the street.     

I learned of my neighbor what I could not possibly discover by observation – or on Halloween. I learned his name, for starters, his age, and that he was retired from the Navy, just like me! He was a medical deep sea diver. And just watch “Men of Honor” to get an idea of how awesome Navy divers are – a lot more awesome than Navy journalists, let me tell you. I also learned that he was a truck driver, and had moved to the area because his daughter wanted him and his wife to move to the area. He met his wife in the Navy, and she was a medical corpsman, too. He lived in the deep south, Mississippi if I recall correctly, but you couldn’t tell it by his accent. I learned these things, and so many more unconscious or nonverbal things about my neighbor which make up a general outline of his character.  

And he learned from me that I was medically retired from the Navy with kidney disease and that I am a reporter and photographer for The Southern, and perhaps a good deal about my character. Though this exchange only lasted a few minutes, the transaction of biographical and psychological information paid off. I feel more neighborly now, and look forward to the next time I see him out and about, so I can wish him a happy day by his first name. 

I know that avoiding neighbors isn’t just some idiosyncrasy of mine, for the simple reason that none but a few of my neighbors have stopped to say hello and introduce themselves. One did so only to ask when the cable was going to be installed; another to see about a fence install. Usually, Trick-or-Treat night gives us the opportunity to get to know our neighbors better. But this past year, almost no one was passing out candy in our neighborhood, and the ones we talked to who were were dressed up as bloody clowns, so we really couldn’t get a sense of them.

Many think the Greatest Commandment means giving food or shelter to the poor, which it does, of course. But perhaps there is more to the Law of Love than satisfying our neighbor’s bodily needs. Maybe we are called to get to know our neighbor, too, to take a few minutes out of our busy lives to acknowledge the existence of our fellow human beings and take some interest in their lives as well.     

Come to think of it, can one even love God or our neighbor if we don’t talk to either of them?