Posted: July 10, 2007 in reflections

whats a neighbour? who do you consider your neighbours? i remember once hearing a speaker of a forum offer great wisdom in defining ‘the neighbour’. essentially he said that the significance of a neighbour comes with the reality that we rarely get to choose who they are.

in this weeks lectionary reading jesus confirms a man’s belief that to gain life is to love god with your whole being and to love your neighbour as yourself.

the Dalai Lama during his recent visit to australia stated:

The concept of ‘us and them’ should now be deemed irrelevant. In ancient times ‘us and them’ was a reality because the destruction of our enemy was in our best interests for our survival. Today however according to the new reality, destruction of our neighbors means destruction of ourselves.

the neighbour can not be the target of our fear. the other – as ‘them’ – is redundant. no longer can the other be isolated from us, for when we do, we risk seeking scapegoats for our own fears and prejudices.

so who is the other? ultimately the other is the one we name as god. but also, the other is all of humanity bound up and united in the image of this god in human form – jesus. seeing ourselves in the bigger picture, as sharing our humanity and existence with billons of others around this diverse globe, begs us to look beyond ourselves, to shed our ego, and be motivated by humility and love.

so loving god, loving ourselves, and loving the other is essentially the same task, goal and process… it is the way we find meaning, develop compassion and grow in wisdom & understanding… it is the way we find life.

  1. Luke says:

    When the Dalai Lama said “according to the new reality, destruction of our neighbours means destruction of ourselves”, was he referring to nuclear weapons and MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction – as the new reality? Or does he just mean by this that the pain of our neighbour
    is our pain because we’re the one humanity? The later meaning would fit in well with your own
    post’s affirmation about our all being made, bound up, united in the image of God ( although I have to ask, what is the image of God, and what are the implications of that for our lives and
    our relationships with other people\neighbours? What does this belief add to the truth that we
    are all human that natural science tells us? (Although I suppose the question what is a human
    cannot be answered in purely scientific terms…can it? I thought so because people say all the
    time “that’s not human behaviour” or “that’s not natural” but all behaviour that humans engage in
    is human\natural in the purely scientific sense isn’t it? I don’t see how science can pronounce
    something to be ethically good or bad, or a person to be not behaving in a human or natural way, but then I’m not a scientist so I dont know. Anyway, back to the main discussion. How did this new reality that the Dalai Lama speeks of become the new reality, if the later meaning to his statement is to be accepted? How, when and why did the destruction of our enemies become not in our interest? If we take nuclear weapons to be the “new reality” then it happ-ened when two nations acquired the ability to completely destroy each other, historically, the
    United States and the former U.S.S.R. But if the later meaning is to be accepted I dont know.
    When was it that a man first realised that his enemy was human as he was, and when was it
    that a man first felt the pain of his enemy? What are the “ancient times” the Dalai Lama speeks of, what time frame is he referring to? Didn’t the Buddha live in “ancient times” – he was born
    around 500 BC or BCE if you want to be p.c. and didn’t he acknowledge the humanity of all, and that the suffering of one was the suffering of all? Again, I dont know, I’m not a Buddhist. But if Judaism\ Christianity can be said to contain these truths, they certainly have their origin
    and development in ancient times, so again, when did this “new reality” the Dalai Lama speeks of come about? If nuclear weapons and MAD are the new reality, does this mean that when\
    wherever they’re not involved, I’m then justified in destroying my enemy through conventional
    military means in the name of national interest\survival?

  2. Luke says:

    Sorry, I’m not finished. If we contextualise this, who are the “them”\ “other” who are our neighbours in Australian society. This could be many people I suppose – the poor, the mentally ill, physically disabled, Asian or indigenous people – but I think one group at the moment is the object of fear, suspicion and even hatred – the Islamic community. Some, perhaps many, would say that their fears and suspicions about the Islamic community are not scapegoating but entirely legitimate, and that their prejudices are for living in a society where for example, women are considered equal to men and free to do whatever they want within the law and to clothe themselves however they want, and where we don’t live in fear of being blown up everytime some group or country does something Muslims dont like. How do you get around those fears, suspicions and prejudices that people think legitimate?

    I think education and dialogue are key in this. Getting non-Muslims to read the Quran and Islamic philosophy and history in schools\universities, to show us that Muslims are not all jihadist, misogynistic theocrats, and getting the Muslim community to likewise understand the values that are held in many liberal, secular Western countries like Australia and historically how we got there, so that we aren’t seen by Muslims as a bunch of hedonistic, materialistic, individualists. Then getting together to try to work out the differences in our cultures through discussion, rather than segregating ourselves from each other in separate communities. Obviously not everyone will be willing to do this, and some will react violently, but that will just have to be delt with by the police and judiciary as any other criminal act in this country is delt with, rather than through people taking the law into their own hands on the streets. After this
    there will still be differences, but how is that different from the differences that people have all the time in Australian society regardless of religion?

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