‘It is hard to justify wars; I think everyone loses them, because it is a defeat for the human being. It exposes his inability to come to terms, to empathise with the Other, to be kind and reasonable, because in this case the encounter with the Other always ends tragically, in a drama of blood and death.

The idea that prompted man to build great walls and vast moats, to surround himself with them and isolate himself from others, has in modern times been given the name of the doctrine of apartheid. This concept has been wrongly limited to the politics of the now defunct regime of whites in South Africa, for in fact apartheid was already practised in ancient times. In simple terms it is a view whose adherents proclaim that anyone may live as he wishes, as long as he is at a distance from me, if he does not belong to my race, religion and culture. But if only that were all it was about, because in fact here we are dealing with a doctrine of structural permanent inequality dividing humankind.

The myths of many tribes and people include a belief that only we are human, the members of our clan, our society, and that Others — all Others — are subhuman, or not human at all.

How different the image of the same Other is in the era of anthropomorphic beliefs, in other words those where the gods can take on human form and behave like people. For in those days no one could be sure if an approaching traveller, nomad or stranger were a man or a god resembling a man. This uncertainty, this intriguing ambivalence is one of the sources of the culture of hospitality, which recommends showing every form of kindness to newcomers.’

Ryszard Kapuściński, from The Other (2006; translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)

Charlotte stood quietly over the fly, preparing to eat it. Wilbur lay down and closed his eyes. He was tired from his wakeful night and from the excitement of meeting someone for the first time. A breeze brought him the smell of clover—the sweet-smelling world beyond his fence. “Well,” he thought, “I’ve got a new friend, all right. But what a gamble friendship is! Charlotte is fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty—everything I don’t like. How can I learn to like her, even though she is pretty and of course clever?”

Wilbur was merely suffering the doubts and fears that often go with finding a new friend. In good time he was to discover that he was mistaken about Charlotte. Underneath her rather bold and cruel exterior, she had a kind heart, and she was to prove loyal and true to the very end.’

E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

E.B. WHITE, 1899-1985


  1. Mary Beth says: Reply

    Great- I get to open the comments today! Heather, I sat here reading with the big question mark of, "How the heck is she going to tie these three together?" When I heard the first strains of Maria Callas singing, I burst out laughing with the sheer delight of the sublimity of it all. Only you could pull these three wildly different pieces together!

    Reading the bit from Charlotte's Web also brought back the most delicious, achingly wonderful memory of sitting in second grade as Sister Germaine read "Charlotte's Web" to a squirming class of 59 (!!!) seven-year-olds. She had us wrapped around her little finger, reading to us every single day. I will never forget hearing that story read and falling in love with it. Even in seventh and eighth grades my teachers (all Sisters of St. Joseph) read to us almost every day before lunch. It calmed everyone down mid-day and reinforced the skill of listening. Among other good things….

    Thank you, and Good Morning!!

  2. Thanks, MB, I'm on a kick of re-reading the "children's" books that formed me (and some new ones!)–Charlotte is such a Christ figure, with her egg sac: "Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all. No one was with her when she died"…

  3. Anonymous says: Reply

    dylan here:

    The last paragraph of the selection from Mr Kapuściński reminds me of the verses from the Letter to the Hebrews: "Let brotherly love continue. And do not neglect to show hospitality, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

    And as for Maria Callas, that is indeed sublimity! But even the mere reading of the words to the aria is a pleasure — everything sounds better in Italian!

  4. Happy Wednesday to you too Heather!!!…and if you ever decide to come and visit Medjugorje you have me over there…kind of a friend…by the soul…seriously you have place to stay and food to eat, and someone to climb mountain and pray with…if you ever decide to come…Stana

  5. Actually it is Thursday. So,happy Thursday! …forgett to leave my email: stanabandur@gmail.com

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