The Other

I’ve been thinking:

So much of talk about encountering the “other” is only a plea for readers to encounter the writer’s self—the other the writer encounters is self, another person whose story appeals to them only insofar as it mirrors their own.

But we cannot encounter any other without confronting the self—which requires encountering the Other who became like self: Christ, the God who became man.

“Madonna of Humility” by Giovanni di Paolo

We can never get beyond our narcissistic desires to be accepted (“as we are”) without accepting the challenge to become more than we are, which requires accepting that what we are, “as we are” now, is not complete. There is room to grow.

But this is a terrible—so often, a terrible thing to face, almost impossible to accept. Why?

Pride, I suppose. Anger at those who have told us exactly how we should grow without accepting us as we are—challenge without love.

But the only sustaining love that there is—the love of the Other—is full of challenge, challenge within love.

So often we are trapped by our human wounds that we refuse to open ourselves to the other—the Other-become-self who put aside every natural pride to kneel beside us “as we are”—who took on our wounds to give them meaning and glory. Why is it so hard to believe that there is One out there who is willing to pour himself out, every last drop, to be near us?

Because if we did so, we would have to accept that we need another near us—an Other, who has the ability to do something we do not—and that we are not complete “as we are.” And if we accepted that, we would despair of ourselves, for we do not want to believe that we are small, and there is an Other who is big.

And so humility is impossible.

Every “other” must always be small, for we have chosen to always be big.


We can never encounter any other which is more than self because we cannot believe that there is anything larger than self. If we give any respect to anything, it is because it has the glory of self, of something like us; if it is not-us it must be small. Smaller, at least; safely so.

Thus the worship of modern equality—marriage equality, gender equality, racial equality. Because, though all persons in all of time are equal in worth and glory, in modern eyes something is not valuable unless it has been universally recognized as “equal”—as self.

Hierarchy is the root evil because it requires bigness and smallness—otherness—humility.

If we cannot humble ourselves to circumstance—barring societal evils, insofar as they can be averted—if we cannot allow one person to think of us as smaller, in some respect, or think of one person as big, in a small and perhaps primarily imaginary way, it is only because we cannot believe we really are equal. If we knew our own worth—the kind of worth that grand people become little for—then we would not need to forever assert it.

Our glory is like gravity: ever-strong, dubious only when we try to explain why it draws others so.

Trust in your value, and you will not need it so much. Let the self be taken care of by someone other than the self; only then will you be able to encounter another.


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