Thinking about Ourselves

While sitting in a coffee shop earlier this week, drinking a very fine cup of joe, I had one of those Thomas-Merton-in-Louisville kind of moments. If you’re unfamiliar, Merton once wrote that: In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.

I suspect we all have these moments when we’re sitting quietly and suddenly realize that we’re all connected. Today, I was especially struck by the notion of national borders—something I’ve thought quite a lot about since moving over here to Germany.

It seems to me that the principalities and powers of this age are forever trying to convince us that we are somehow different, that “German” and “American” are ontologically not the same. Because we’re not the same, so the powers’ logic goes, we should be suspicious, perhaps even fearful, of each other. This then leads to the notion that we need to protect ourselves from them.

I don't buy it.

Sitting in a coffee shop and watching people—the middle aged couple sipping coffee as their two young daughters drink juice, or the mother sharing a small meal with her two daughters, or the young couple very clearly in love and drinking sodas together—deals a death blow to the notion that we’re different. Sure, language separates us, but deep down we're all each other's, as Merton said.

Craig D. Katzenmiller is Tokens’ Social Media Editor. He is currently pursuing Ph.D. studies in Liturgical Theology and Ethics at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg.