“You know the heart of the stranger” is a phrase that I came upon when reading The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm. I was going through a passage about brotherly love which is different from the other type of love if we do not possess the worldly view of love. Love to the surroundings may not be so far as reciprocal love from couples, the simple difference is the approach we take to find both. An objectified love is different from an unrestricted love.
We all arrive to love something in life, whether it is unconditionally like a mother, or conditionally like a lover, an ice-cream or a place. The strange thing about this act, conditionally or unconditionally, is that one expects it to be reciprocal and have the subject’s love be shown at the same intensity as yours, through a message or by its simple accessibility or presence if we refer to objects. In the process of loving, one is able to discover the own defects of the activity and reach into the core of affection, where every step initiates, and where the mildest or greatest feelings are produced, the heart. Not the organ, but that cavity where emotional symptoms are sensed.
Knowing one’s heart is a question of time. But, is knowing the heart of a stranger a question of time as well? In the phrase written above, the word stranger is the result of a translation from the Aramaic into modern English language, making possible that different texts have different word choice to convey a similar message. For instance, the word “stranger” from the Exodus is in some cases replaced with the word “sojourner” which is a translation from the Hebrew whose definition is of a “resident alien” or less intensely, of an individual who resides in a place only if good-will is amongst the community, because they are subjected to their land which is a grace for the living. In the Exodus slavery is portraid, and most importantly liberation by faith of a God is illustrated. Believers can question God’s own heart for the stranger, or his compassion for the afflicted because of the 400 years (which is not acknowledged as truth), in which the Hebrew community served as slaves for ancient Egypt, but facts are facts, and if faith can lead to facts, then the knowledge of having a saviour that knows the hearts of his people, strangers, can be subjected to our own truth.
A stranger does not have to be a person with no link to oneself. A village or a city can be home to strangers, but being strange to the public does not mean that nothing unites an individual with what he certifies as trustable or loyal. More than our versions for connection, land is an element that an individual and a stranger have in common.They are brought into interaction in a single place, Egypt, if we analyse the situation lived by Hebrews in the Exodus. The strange slaves we mentioned before were “all strangers back in Egypt”, meaning that the idea of a stranger is more integral than we could think of initially, because as said earlier, a stranger can be closer to our identity than we might initially think. What would the rich be without the poor? What would the friend be without the foe? If I am a stranger in the eyes of a heavenly father, we are all strangers in his non-classificatory land. Therefore, strangers can pass the barriers of I into the place of we. I am a stranger, therefore we are strangers.
It is this communal and embraceful manner that analysts sometimes succeed to see in recent examples of sojourners in the world beyond the deserts of North Africa and into Scott Key’s “land of the free”, the United States, where after experiencing constant fluctuations in the state of liberty, patriotism changes definition regularly. In 2014, the former president of the United States, Barack Obama, evoked the words of the Old Testament when saying “My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.” Through these words he says that the country is a land for the coming together of peoples or immigrants, of sojourners, which lay in the hands of the privileged fellow men and women native of the land. Today, from all parts of the world, people immigrate to the United States in search of the free lifestyle the country is praised for. It could be seen then, when the English colonized Native Americans in search of new land for expansion. And it could be seen before, when the first humans arrived through the Bering land Bridge of either frozen sea or low depth by its low sea level because of the brutal amount of solid ice present on the surface. Connection is what we try to seek, connection to the land by a bridge, connection to the people through kind actions, connection to the hearts by love. Immigrants are the connection to other views and desires. Although they could disbalance a system, it provides the natural flow of the world of communications and connections. It is the interpersonal connections we may find through the exploration of the stranger: the similar attributes one has with him or her. We all have privileges of some sort. If living would be considered a privilege, then the connections formed would be greater and maybe the difference between friend and foe would not exist because something bigger than ourselves joins us.
Join, unity, sharing, are attributes that we all possess, and with them, the combined characteristic of suffering. It is written in stone that all humans have experienced suffering in its own form throughout the time their lives gather. We may feel compassion for the ones who suffer or we may feel satisfaction in their horror. In either case, we feel empathy because we acknowledge the reality of the other person and create a processed thought of it which can be described as positive or negative. Already said that, we share connectedness, we can say that we share empathy for others even though we transcript it in our own minds. With empathy we can see others and have a judgement. We can see the stranger. And we can see his intentions of the heart. What would our processed opinions, words, arguments be without an initial action that has a background? How can we get to know someone if he or she does not have anything in themselves? We have easily been capable of knowing the heart of the stranger that needs help, but we have prolonged the moment in time where we have to turn and see our own human heart and its possibilities.
3rd May 2020