Just after the sun set I saw this moment – where the moonlight meets the twilight. Knowing, of course, that these are both the light of the same sun.
I watched a fascinating and moving documentary on French TV on Sunday. It was about a French family, a father, mother, teenage son and two younger daughters sailing a boat up the east coast of Canada to Greenland and as far north as they could go.
The further north they sailed the less they encountered towns and villages, but when they did stop, they’d be welcomed by local Inuit people. Although they couldn’t speak to each other in a common language, their interactions were friendly and curious. There were lots of smiles and a welcoming into homes to share some food.
I was reminded of holidays in Brittany many, many years ago, where our little son, probably only about 5 years old at the time, would spend all day playing on the beach with another child who was there. The children didn’t speak the same language but they had fun for hours. When we asked him what the little girl’s name was he replied “I don’t know” with an expression which suggested he didn’t even understand the need to ask the question.
It’s been my experience as I’ve travelled in other countries that strangers are helpful and friendly. There is some fundamental affinity between human beings.
I know all that can go very wrong very quickly however. A few days ago I was reading one of Montaigne’s essays (On coaches), where he described the reports of the “New World” which were just becoming known at the time (he lived in the 16th century). The tales he told were of the Spanish greeting the native peoples of Mexico and other “New World” countries, presenting themselves as peaceful and friendly, then deceiving and tricking them….slaughtering, capturing and torturing them. Demanding gold from them. The descriptions of the violence are as awful as anything you’d see in “Game of Thrones”! Montaigne was shocked by it –
Who ever set the utility of commerce and trading at such a price? So many cities razed, so many nations exterminated, so many millions of people put to the sword and the richest and most beautiful part of the world turned upside down for the traffic in pearls and pepper!
He mused about how things could have been so different –
What an amelioration for the entire globe, if the first examples of our conduct that were offered over there had called those peoples to the admiration and imitation of virtue and had set up between them and us a brotherly fellowship and understanding?
In other words, what if the explorers had presented the best of themselves instead of the worst? What if they had behaved in such ways that the native peoples had admired them and wanted to imitate them instead of fearing them? What if the whole goal of the exploration had been an increase in “brotherly fellowship and understanding” instead of exploitation and theft?
Makes you wonder, huh?
These tales of violence seem both far away and disturbingly close. We certainly haven’t evolved to a better way. There are still wars of religion, torture, exploitation and even domestic violence. However, I do think there is a glimmer at least of hope because there is something I can do. And that you can do. Every day.
We can tune in to our natural human attraction for other humans and approach them with our best selves rather than our worst. I can, and you can, meet others with a desire to “increase brotherly fellowship and understanding” (that’d be sisterly too by the way!!)