“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, A beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood, A neighborly day for a beauty, Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you! I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you. So let’s make the most of this beautiful day, Since we’re together we might as well say, Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor? Won’t you please, Won’t you please? Please won’t you be my neighbor?” – Fred McFeely Rogers
On October 22, I took a walk out the front door of the house in California where I lived in as a high school student. It’s a neighborhood that I haven’t seen much of in 40 years, and it’s pretty exotic to me. It’s changed a lot from what I remember. Some of the changes are quite jarring: new streets, new buildings, new power lines, fewer trees, and formerly pristine mountain slopes dotted with new construction. There are a lot of new neighborhood sights to get used to.
As I headed up into the foothills, I found wilder neighbors. Black-tailed deer are not quite what I’m used to. In Wisconsin, where I lived for the past 9 years, it’s white-tailed deer that you see everywhere.
When I got to the top of the hill, I looked back down into the valley and saw this view of Santa Clara County, with the tall buildings of downtown San Jose in the distance. There are close to two million people living down there!
This is actually the 33rd wealthiest town in the nation. There are a lot of people with high-end tech jobs, high-end tech toys, and high-end recreational hobbies. Heading back down the hill into town, I went past the church where I was married, where my sister, my husband, and my father are buried in the garden Columbarium. As it turned out, my mother passed away in her apartment down the street from the church that very evening. Her ashes will be buried in the garden on Friday.
So what is a neighborhood, and who is my neighbor?
We all share the same air, the same water, the same soil, the same sunshine. Whether we feel seen, known, memorialized or not, we live and die here in proximity with every other Earthling, human and otherwise. We are all in relationship with each other. We are neighbors. As such, we should treat one another with kindness and care, check in, and keep in touch. It’s just neighborly.
Thank you to Ann-Christine, who is our host this week for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge.
What an interesting word – indeed, an interesting concept. I suspect that only human beings, with their big brains and their social biology, even experience chaos. I imagine chaos to be attributed to a situation that evokes a kind of fear, but on a more complex level than a fear for one’s basic survival.
Social chaos, for example.
Probably most of us have experienced the confusing disorder of emotions and associations that might be described as social chaos. Where do I fit in? How do I connect? Do my feelings mesh with anyone else’s? These thoughts can be quite unsettling to me, but I don’t imagine spiders or starfish or blue jays dealing with that kind of survival anxiety.
Some humans believe that we have a superior gift for bringing order out of chaos. I look at homeowners blowing those untidy leaves off of their driveway in the fall, and I wonder if they imagine they are making the world more orderly while forgetting that our suburban consumption creates chaotic waste in much greater proportions.
If chaos provokes a kind of fear or discomfort, then each of us probably has a different threshold of tolerance for it. And each of us can probably reset that threshold with a bit of work. How comfortable can you become with disorder, ambiguity, or uncertainty? I have to admit that I found parenting to be a great exercise in adaptation to chaos. There were plenty of times that I wasn’t in control of the situation, but I survived, and I certainly learned a lot…and I actually enjoyed it.
There is plenty to learn in the present climate of global chaos in the human family. There are certainly many questions with unknown answers. There is confusion and ambiguity and anxiety about how we fit together, how we feel, and how we ought to act. And this is going on at a very high level of cognitive function. It is a situation that is created in our big brains.
At the same time, in the world outside our big brains, Nature is functioning as usual. Organisms emerge, populations respond, life and death dance together in fascinating rhythm. I find this incredibly peaceful, a perfect antidote to chaos. Breathing in the assurance of Nature’s presence, I am strengthened for the work of being a human. It’s not easy work. We have a lot of responsibility. But the first responsibility is being aware of who we are as a species. May we be humble. May we be kind to every being on the Tree of Life.