Who are our Neighbors?

One of the most fundamental components of life is a relationship. Without relationships, we can’t find the existential reality that we live in this world and beyond.

The very start could be our relationship with our mother. As one of the earliest life memories, we can’t help but recall our interaction with our parents. Without them, we could never have lived in this world.

At the very end, death overwhelms us as one of the ultimate relationships. At the moment of death, we will miss everyone and everything we have met. Losing all types of relationships, including ourselves, is the existential reality of our death.

From parents to family members to partners to friends to acquaintances to unknown strangers, even to oneself to someone or something supernatural, metaphysical, and transcendental, life seems to consist of various types of relationships. Managing all of them could be the way of how we live our lives.

There could be several ways to sort out these relationships aside from who they are at the surface. For example, is your relationship with your parents different from that of your friends and acquaintances? Consciously or unconsciously, the values of interactions would differ depending on the relationship types. Can we love everyone at the same level of intimacy and commitment regardless of the kinds of people?

Ideally, Jesus Christ teaches us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Matthew 22:39

In this case, who are our neighbors? Should everyone indiscriminately we encounter in our lives be the one we must love as we love ourselves? It sounds ideal and beautiful. And yet, we can quickly notice this difficulty. Probably, we could sacrifice and crucify ourselves even to our death for someone we love. But then, that doesn’t mean that we die for everyone, all human beings.

Even if we could sacrifice ourselves for someone we love, that is a tautology. That is to say; we can love someone we love. Or, we can love only someone who loves us. There is nothing significant about it.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

Matthew 5:46

So, who are indeed the neighbors we love as we love ourselves? The implementation is tremendous.

They must be everyone. And yet, we are still too selfish and sinful to embrace this teaching at a profound level. We can’t love those people whom we consider as our enemies. By default, we always exclude our enemies from the category of our neighbors. Thus, we also think the following words of Jesus sound too naive, ideal, and unrealistic.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:43-45

We are still far from this level of our Father in heaven despite this ancient teaching. Our consciousness level hasn’t yet reached this realm. Or, we would never get it as long as we are (full of) ourselves.

To illustrate these levels of our consciousness with more contemporary articulation, as one example, let me use the value meme model of Spiral Dynamics. The color-coded framework classifies the layers of human values with the historical phase of human evolution.

It starts from the so-called first-tier value memes, which consists of these six colors:

  1. Beige
  2. Purple
  3. Red
  4. Blue
  5. Orange
  6. Green

As the inception of human beings, the Beige represents the basic instincts such as safety, hunger, and sexual drive. While we all move and spend our lives based on this value, sadly, we often see the victims who suffer from the destructive side of this value meme in the lawless battlefield. On the other hand, it should be constructive for life to be sustainable. For example, newborn babies look for the bosoms for their survival instinct. Our relationship with the mother starts from this level.

The Purple represents the family kinship value. Controlling our instincts, as the higher level, we can love our neighbors as long as they are our families, relatives, or extended tribal members. However, outside of this kinship circle, everyone could be potentially our enemies. As such, as the family tie value is one of the primitive drives, we often hear that people trust only their family members, not only for the small businesses but even at the large scale organizations and nation-states.

The Red represents the charismatic leadership value. Overcoming the tribal membership of the Purple, we can love our neighbors as long as they love our charismatic leader. This way, we can tame tribal exclusivity. However, the danger is that we allow the dictatorship and cult mentality to emerge. People in this Red would elevate and worship any religious, ideological, cult figures to identify their neighbors exclusively, under their charismatic figure who is often cruel and yet vulnerable. Our bloody human history can cite a long list of these charismatic, often brutal figures.

Avoiding such a single person vulnerability, the Blue represents the institutional systems to identify the specific neighbors to overcome the danger of the Red dictatorship. It is neither family kingship nor charismatic devotion to identify our neighbors, but a set of rules, laws, and ideologies to define their membership. The nation-state cannot function well until people reach this consciousness level. Otherwise, we often allow the emergence of dictatorships or oligarchic politicians only from specific families. Such dehumanized lawfulness can function well to maintain this Blue systemic communities and organizations.

Overcoming the Blue bureaucracy and legalism, the Orange represents scientific, economic rationalism, and pragmatism. In this value, anyone can be our neighbors as long as we work together, preferably in a win-win situation. Beyond nation-states like institutionalism, we could see the emergence of globalization and transnationalism for the first time in history. For example, in this perspective, multinational corporations can govern and control the global markets beyond nationalism. Big Tech giants maintain our neighborhood as big data and information in the digital sphere.

And, as the last value meme of the first-tier, we are aware of all the issues and life conditions derived from all these previous five memes. The Beige-embedded primitives can’t handle civilizations; the Purple kinship creates constant tribal conflicts; the Red-driven warriors are too fanatic; the Blue-based officers are bureaucratic, and the Orange-strategic business persons reinforce the marketplace of the global disparities.

We all have these problems individually and collectively. Nobody is free from these issues. And we inevitably identify and classify our neighbors in these values embedded. These are all relationships we have in the layers of our consciousness when we try to see who our neighbors are and how we can love them as we love ourselves. We also see all these memes in ourselves.

In this recognition, the Green represents our reflective, sensitive, relativistic selves with the efforts of embracing all these color-coded values from Beige to Purple to Red to Blue to Orange. As such, the Green-oriented egalitarian selves are supposed to be a peacemaker to love all levels of their neighbors.

Can we love our neighbors as we love ourselves on this Green level? No, we can’t. We still face the issue of the Green as all memes have both constructive and destructive aspects.

We often recognize our Green selves as so-called social justice warriors who tend to consciously or unconsciously judge, even attack all the other meme values, people, and selves, despite these being part of themselves, but because of their and our narcissistic superiority complex. Our Green conscious selves inevitably believe that we are the highest and most matured realm in the entire first-tier memes.

Because of these Green conditions, our self-consciousness gets over-hyped, making us unavoidably narcissistic if not nihilistic. In the Green, we are narcissistic due to our (often unconscious) superiority. And we are nihilistic due to our effect or obsession to become too relativistic to embrace and judge all memes deceptively.

Who are our neighbors?

We can only identify and classify them depending on the meme level of our consciousness. We can only see our neighbors and love them as we love ourselves as far as each value meme is concerned as part of our collective consciousness. Our love is spontaneous in the Beige, tribal in the Purple, fanatic in the Red, institutional in the Blue, pragmatic in the Orange, and sensitive in the Green.

How can we overcome this limitation and dilemma? The short answer is that we can’t overcome it as long as we are (full of) ourselves. The difficulty is that the neighbors we identified are only those we can identify by ourselves and in the realm of our consciousness.

Who are our neighbors? The question is the same as asking: Who are we?

The answer should be:

Forget ourselves.

Paradoxically, only if we can forget who we are and only if we can no longer identify and classify who our neighbors are and should be, our selfless selves could be ready for transcending all the first-tier value memes to the second-tier ones.

We could, only then, be ready to free ourselves from the prison of our conscious selves of who our neighbors are and who we are on earth. In heaven, we are no longer ourselves. By then, we know who our neighbors are, as we know who we are.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Matthew 16:24-25

Jesus could share the answer only through his parables. Indeed, when the Samaritan took care of the person on the street, unlike other high priests who were full of themselves, the Samaritan had wholly forgotten who he was and who that victim was, except for the truth that God loves us all.

We love him, because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19

Image by MetsikGarden 

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