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Of Like Poles and Unlike Poles

Remember that one theory you tried very hard to understand in middle school or high school, but for whatever reason never did? There are four or five theories that I couldn’t fathom in middle or high school. One such theory was the Magnetic Principle - like poles repel each other, whereas unlike poles attract each other. I always wondered why. It seemed to me that the contrary should be the case. Why would unlike poles attract each other? I would beat myself up trying to understand why like poles would repel but unlike poles attract. It simply didn't make any sense to me.

Why like poles and unlike poles? This past Sunday before the 10:30 service, one of our parishioners shared with me a story he had read in the Washington Post that morning, a story about a man named Mr. Basco in El Paso, Texas. This parishioner was so moved by the raw humanity in the story. The overflow of affection that covered city blocks with people, the many flowers that were donated... I mean, who wouldn't want to celebrate the beauty of humanity, if you were to witness this show of support? The story is about a widower whose wife was a victim of the recent shootings in El Paso. This husband and wife are the only two in a family, with no children or any blood relation in El Paso - just the two of them. Just like the like and the unlike pole, they were attracted to each other and had found comfort and strength in one another - unlike poles who had met at a bar years before. They had lived their life together with the hope - maybe - many years ago, that they would have children of their own to mourn them. But alas, it did not happen. I am not sure that scenario deterred them from living fulfilling lives, nor should it have.

But here he was, dealing with a shattered reality, one involving this person whom he knew and had loved for God knows how long. The one person who, at a chance meeting at a bar, swept him off his feet. You also may have a similar memory of someone who swept you off your feet. For him, this was the person who became his best friend and life partner. The one person with whom he said his prayers before nightfall, and again before the in-breaking of the morning sun, was now dead from an assassin’s bullet. The one person to whom he was attracted - unlike poles and like poles. What was he to do now? With whom would he mourn the cruel death of a wife who had been, for him, more than a sustaining breath and presence?

Well, with the most powerful tool he had, he invited everyone to the send-off party for the one person he loved. And, guess what? Many people joined him. Hundreds, in fact. People he didn’t know and never previously met showed up to mourn with him and comfort him with a kind word and a prayer. Yes, like poles do also attract, for we are all attracted to the beauty we see in each other. It is my understanding that many flowers were sent to the funeral home by people who couldn’t be there themselves, yet felt a deep sense of obligation to send what they could. In the end, the widower who wondered about mourning by himself realized that he wasn’t alone, but instead had a legion of family who defied the principle of magnetism in the quest to represent the best of humanity. At its best, humanity is beautiful, and beauty is attractive.

Yes, unlike poles may attract whereas like poles may repel each other. But this principle becomes operational only when we begin to see poles as being representative of south and north - like a magnet. For I think the best of humanity isn’t about poles; the best of humanity is about a circle. One that is like God’s love, which has no beginning and no end. More to the point, the circle possesses the ability to touch and draw in everyone - whether of like poles, or of unlike poles. 

I don’t know what moved the many hundreds of people who responded to the poor widower’s invitation to mourn with him. But I surely do know that, in this particular case, as in many other similar cases where the best of humanity is lived out, like poles do not repel, because grief knows no poles - either north or south. Unlike poles do attract because the caring of people and the demonstration of compassion knows no poles - neither south, nor north.

I believe that within each sinew of our makeup lies the best of us. It is that part of us that always awaits a moment to shine. Mr. Basco couldn’t believe that he was not alone in his grief. There were many others who, for the sake of that one thing which attracts us to each other, reject the north-and-south-pole, the repel-and-attract dichotomy, and believe that we can all be family because we can all share in one another's grief and joy.

Hatred does repel, but love attracts. And be it the like pole or unlike pole, be it north or south, there’s an attractive gift that is more powerful and life-giving, and it is within each of our own's ability to offer that to anyone - as many had to Mr. Basco.



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