“As more individuals are produced than can possibly survive, there must… be a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species, or with the individuals of distinct species, or with the physical conditions of life.” Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, 1859.
Recently I watched a Turner Classic movie filmed in Aleppo Syria in the 1940s. It began with a scene of bustling travelers at a train station that looked like any other urban setting but then I flashed on recent images of a devastated Syrian city that has been virtually leveled.
The next day I listened to an NP Radio segment of an interview with a neurosurgeon who fled with his family from Aleppo to Turkey to live temporarily with several hundred thousands of Syrians in a makeshift camp. He was asked what he misses most while living in the encampment. He admitted he misses his home, his neighbors, his colleagues and friends.
My take on his response may seem rather presumptuous but I do believe there is some merit in risking to bond deeply one-on-one with the surgeon’s present ‘neighbors.’ This may also seem too bold, given I have never been confined in such a way, but a few of my close friends live out of state or country. I seldom bond with my neighbors and never run deep with them; rarely meet with extended family members or colleagues; enjoy my church friends but we don’t reveal what’s inside us.
In-depth single encounters with strangers may be the balm the neurosurgeon needs during his provisional stay. He might have assumed the only profound empathy he experienced with his long-time friends and co-workers back home developed over time. But what if two strangers can enter into a full-blown level of affection within an hour or so? There is scientific evidence that mortals are gifted with instant trust with unfamiliar persons but they seldom trust it.
We may be headed for a period of struggling for existence in dealing with the anger and hate we are experiencing in our divided country and realize we may be living in temporary encampments. We have not paid enough attention to our own feelings of ire and hatred. We may tend to conceal our full-blown road rage and domestic wrath. What if we have to live differently and risk more in our contacts with strangers or anyone, to overcome the meanness that seems so pervasive? It will take one-on-one bonding and that is difficult to do, always has been and always will be.
There are other ways, of course, to run deep in our struggle for existence and that has to do with risking being silly. Those moments can break through the harshest times in our lives. When I served as a youth director eons ago I asked the high-schoolers if they would like to go to lunch together. They jumped for it. We went to a restaurant called ‘The Penguin Inn.’
When we stood outside the restaurant I lied and told them we had to walk in like a penguin or they wouldn’t serve us. “Follow me!” I wallowed into the place with my weird brood behind me and we got service. A number of those youth who are in their old age now have sent me notes in recent years stating how meaningful it meant to them that day. They’ve not commented on the great programs we had or sermons I preached in those youth meetings but they made my day.
Several FB messages popped up from those ancient penguin kids soon after Mr. Trump won the election. Ah but, the struggle for existence will still call for risking bonding with perhaps the harshest peoples we know.