In the animal kingdom, there is nothing called 'stranger'. I have never thought of it before, but I doubt that if a frog comes across another frog, it hasn't met before, it will 'think' of it as a 'stranger'. They might even start jumping together (what frogs do, I think, not sure if they enjoy any other activities at first encounter) without introductions. What I am trying to say here is that, the concept of what we call a "stranger" exists only in the human kingdom. Now, the frog might not stop to introduce itself to the other frog (before they go jumping together), but we animals of the human kingdom, would have to (if we are to jump together that is). Frogs know frogs right away, the way we do too. But when we come across a stranger, we wonder, in fact, if he isn't actually an animal, an asshole, a dickhead, or a human. Many times we just assume, or have to assume, the stranger is actually the former rather than the latter, as a survival technique. Wait. Let me explain, if you have been working on growing your muscles, and you have trained your brain to become fearless of fellow men, strangers, good for you, you are not concerned with what comes next, this is for those who still haven't.
I have always admired Athens but was always jealous of Sparta.
It is said that humans are the only animals who have morality or can make a moral judgment. That is only partially true because only some humans can. It is more correct to say that humans are the only animals who can fear, and sometimes live in fear of, their own genre, or other humans. I haven't seen a cow look suspiciously at another cow, or a donkey, or a bee, or even a cockroach. Those are some of the animals I have seen with my bare eyes.
Lest I sound like my father, let me explain to you that my knowledge about animals is, at best, poor, but my father made sure, against our obvious boredom, to lecture us about all sorts of facts and oddities from the animal kingdom, on one hand to show off his knowledge and on the other to explain to us that it is humans who are the animals not the other way around. This enlightened wisdom does not only come from having to grow up in a village but more from his passion for animal channels. He would watch any channel showing animals from animaux (his favorite) to the national geographic or chasse et peche, or any Arab TV channel in the wake of the death of an Arab leader. Of the 700 channels he could watch, from news to movies or music, he would stare for hours at a tiger lurking for a deer. One day, I watched with him. Usually, everyone would leave the room. But I stayed. So the tiger was waiting for the right moment to jump on the deer, or was it a zebra? This took more than I had planned. As usual, in the meantime, my dad would be the narrator -and from time to time even a translator probably assuming I am deaf- commenting on what is (not) happening on the screen. "Wild life teaches you a lot, he would say, see the patience?". A lot of time passes before anything happens, giving my father plenty of time to tell me about other episodes he had watched. Back to the tiger, who made a slight move, he would start telling me what will happen next, and next is not run, hit, catch, eat. You wish. He watches with such an anticipation for what he knows will come and surprisingly he is equally moved by the ending. Then I learn, this he had watched ten times already. My father went on telling stories from the book of animals of Al Jahiz; I was thinking: the deer ran as fast as it could but when it was caught fiercely by the tiger, it knew this was the end. It didn't fight back.
Athenians worried about the nature of things; Spartans knew better.
I heard this joke a while ago: what is the difference between a church and a casino? In the casino, you pray from the bottom of your heart. I remembered it recently, when I was in a taxi in Amman. The good thing about the Amman taxi system is that you have a counter, but the bad news is you cannot hop into one of those taxis that already have other female passengers, under an undeclared universal female taxi pact. If you want to bring someone, a woman, back to religion, send them to Amman without a car, and let them take a taxi. In a taxi too, you pray from the bottom of your heart.
Athenians pursued knowledge, Spartans were busy.
Some seek to understand, others take action. Both are guided by fear, baseless or not, it leads to the same conclusion. I was reading Amin Maalouf's "In the name of identity" recently, where he says "fear might make anyone take to crime". The book is very insightful and an easy read but if things go wrong in taxi -or anywhere else, I doubt I will recite excerpts from Maalouf's book. While Maalouf seeks to understand why the world is so violent, I have decided to take self defense classes. I am not a tiger, that's why, but I refuse to be a deer.