My first time on an airplane was exciting. I got a window seat so I could see everything. As the jet climbed, I looked down and tried to identify everything below. I soon realized I couldn’t tell what was what.
That road down there: Which interstate is it? What town is that? What river am I seeing? Which state am I flying over now?
I had no clue.
It struck me how I tend to think of things as they are on a map. My brain imagines all those dashed and dotted lines that separate things — one county from another, one state from another, one country from another.
But those lines don’t really exist. They’re only on our maps and in our heads. The hills, the fields, the rivers, the towns, the forests — they’re all part of one undivided thing.
Just like us.
It got me to thinking about how we divide things. That includes drawing imaginary lines between ourselves and others. We see someone who is from a different nationality, and we draw a line. Different age, different nationality, different religion, different sex, different sexual orientation … on and on. We see some superficial difference and reach for our pencils.
We spend a lot of time drawing make-believe lines.
When someone refuses to respect our lines — or, heaven forbid, they challenge our lines and try to erase them — we get defensive. We do whatever is necessary to protect our lines.
We forget: Our lines don’t really exist. They’re all in our heads.
The biggest problems come when we start drawing those imaginary lines in our hearts. We decide that there’s a “right” side to the line — our side — and a “wrong” side. We judge those on the other side. Our imaginary lines become fault lines.
Our imaginary lines are behind much of the very real pain and misery in the world.
One more thing: If we believe that God is love, then we experience God every time we love someone else. When we draw a line between ourselves and anyone else, we also draw a line between ourselves and God.
Luckily, we always have erasers. Just as easily as we draw those lines in our minds, we can rub them out. All we need to do is flip the pencil over and use the other end.
Throughout history, we have many examples of people who turn their lives into erasers. Often, we call them prophets. They refuse to respect the make-believe lines that are used to try to divide societies and religions. They ignore the lines so consistently and so passionately that they pay a price at the hands of the line drawers.
And they urge us to become erasers, too.
To become an eraser, we have to avoid the temptation to think that our lines are anything more than imaginary. We may all be different, but we should never be divided. We’re indivisible, just like our planet.
Take a close look at this photo of Earth shot from one of the Apollo spacecraft. Notice what’s missing?
No lines. Anywhere.