As an introduction to Mark Twain last week in class, I posted a handful of his quotes around my classroom. I asked my students to walk around the room, choose a favorite (or least favorite) quote, and write about it. After we discussed them, I asked if anyone knew or could guess the author of the quotes, and then we made predictions about his personality and writing style. However, throughout the reflecting process, one of my students asked me which quote was my favorite. And I think it has to be this one:
Travel is fatal to prejudice.
Mark Twain is the master of taking a complex idea and whittling it down to only a few words. (Ironically, he is also the master of taking a few words and stretching them into an entire short story, but that’s besides the point.)
I love how he captures in this quote the idea that staying isolated in our own world closes our eyes, and consequently, our hearts, to the world beyond. Yes, Jesus talked about loving our neighbor, but especially in this global village created by technology, the entire world is our neighbor. There is no excuse for not engaging with people around the entire globe.
And as we challenge ourselves to learn about them, we begin to learn from them, and we realize how small we really are. And we begin to realize all that God planned for the human race, and how we inhibit that design each time we speak or act based on prejudices.
I’m currently reading Evolving in Monkey Town, and I came across this passage this morning:
…It was within this social context [of always being ready for a fight] that I and an entire generation of young evangelicals constructed our Christian worldviews…We knew what atheists and humanists and Buddhists believed before we actually met any atheists or humanists or Buddhists, and we knew how to effectively discredit their worldviews before ever encountering them on our own…
May we push ourselves to look beyond ourselves, and engage with others through love, empathy, and service rather than preconstructed stereotypes and prejudices.