Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

A weird writer moves in. He offers eclectic observations. One day he’s talking about the mating habits of hedgehogs, the next day Ethereum and distributed applications. You might not get it, at first.

If you pay attention, you find common threads in a hodgepodge of observations from an offbeat character. The writer’s ideas may sometimes disturb you. Other words may comfort you, give you hope or laughter. Forget every other reason you read him. The writer wants a relationship with you. One in which he writes and you read, and vice versa. A worthwhile exchange both of you will seek again. A collaboration that informs both, in which you respect each other even when you disagree.

“Pay attention.” Attention is the currency that matters most to philosophers and hucksters. It’s pointless to dig after deeper truths in a public forum when no one is paying attention, and more humiliating to find your next meal. These days, bots measure attention online and some offer small payments. Don’t get overly enthused about that. Tokens, coins and “likes” have their uses, but you can live without them. First find a small group who support you and give them back something of value. Maybe we can all seek truth, care for one another, and turn hucksters to repentance.

By pursuit of truth we gain knowledge. As Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.” But what is power good for? Some use it for dominion over others, to be lords of the people. Others know stronger powers: love, genius, art. The power to inspire sacrifice and courage. Knowledge brings all kinds of power.

One way is by self-disclosure. The woman I love most took that chance once. Before we committed to each other, she told me the worst about herself. At the risk of ending our relationship, she told me things from her past I might not have learned until years later. She is a wise woman. We stuck together then, and now. She used knowledge to build up the power of love.

Let me do something similar, though not romantic. Let me tell you what to expect from me. My byline means “exploration.” Everything is up for discussion, and everyone can evolve. Will to be good, take responsibility for your actions, and respect everyone who does the same.

Powerful art touches the heart and moves us to action. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is a documentary film about the life of Fred Rogers, released in 2018. As a kid, I never much liked “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.” The show didn’t have enough action or comedy, and I was already brushing adolescence before my parents bought a TV. He touched me later in life, instead. The documentary had me bawling my eyes out. Mister Rogers dedicated his life to teaching children to love themselves and respect others. By believing he could, he touched millions.

We need no less today. Instead of remembering what Fred Rogers taught us, we fight over the golden scepter. When our neighbors need us to listen, we are too busy talking to hear a thing. Instead of reaching out to support each other, we turn away from involvement, or dehumanize those in need. Why is that? Can we build a world in which everyone happily belongs?

I don’t know, and won’t assume. One thing is sure. If a better world can exist, we can’t get there by standing still. We can begin a migration to a happier place by asking “Won’t you be my neighbor?” And step forward no longer alone by answering “Yes!”

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