Thursday, April 12, 2012

Moral Proximity

I recently contracted a nasty sinus infection that left me tired all the time.   An essential part of my recovery was afternoon nap and reading time.  So I hauled the works of Alexander McCall Smith from the library and he became my companion for two full weeks.
I’m struck once more by the theme of moral proximity—how his characters feel compelled to tend for another because of their contact with each other, whether that contact was intentional or not.  They don’t necessarily choose to be involved; sometimes they are distinctly reluctant.  But when they realize that there is something they could do for another, they are compelled to do it by a sense of moral duty. 
The other thing that is striking about his work is the kind of caring exhibited by the main characters in his two major series.  Mma Ramotswe and Isabelle Dalhousie rarely act out of the energy of control or busy-body-ness, but rather tenderness and compassion.
There are two good reminders for me here.  The first is that I am my brother’s keeper, and my sister’s keeper; and my sister and brother are whoever shows up on my radar.  The second is that when I find myself charged up by something, that’s not the energy that actually helps.  I need to find that more tender and quiet generosity that recognizes limits, brokenness, and love.

Therese desCamp

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