Sometimes, the way things are seems very strange when you think about it. For example, imagine two buildings across the street from each other, both are offices of about the same size. These buildings house two different companies. Every day, people drive down the same street from different places and arrive at these same two locations. They work, talk, go to lunch, work some more and then drive home.
Physically, you could walk across the street and enter the other building. You could go there and walk around, seeing what this building is like and talking to the people in the various cubes and offices. But in actuality, you can’t do that. It may be fenced in, or require a badge to enter, or have locks that keep you out. More importantly, these two companies may be in completely different fields, so that you stand little chance of entering the other organization, even if you want to. The requirements of the organization across the street might be for completely different skills than you have. They might have age requirements that bar you from working there, or it might be the kind of organization that has sites all over the country and if you were to work for them, there would be no guarantee that you could work in the location across the street – you might end up in Alabama instead. And yet, you can look out your office window every day and see the folks over there walking to and from their cars or smoking a cigarette.
I find this notion of physical proximity and relational distance to be extremely odd. It doesn’t seem natural that you should have no idea who the folks across the street are, what they do, or where they live. Sometimes this can be different offices inside the same building, which is just as odd. In the historical past that I imagine, I cannot conceive of people working on the same street and not knowing each other. The butcher and the tanner across the street from each other must have known each other back then – no?
But this relational separation exists on many more levels than just that of the office. I don’t know much about most of my neighbors – where they work, their names, what they are like, etc. Frankly, the ones that I do know I sort of wish I didn’t, but that’s my problem. Churches might be on the same block, or in some close proximity to each other, and yet have absolutely no idea about each other – who the congregants are, how they worship, what they believe, how they serve the community. It’s as if spatial proximity means nothing in the modern age. This seems wrong and disordered somehow.