Late this past Saturday night, or, more probably, early this past Sunday morning, some people walked by my house. They were more than likely intoxicated, walking home from one of the many bars and pubs that are within a few blocks of me, and they decided that it might be entertaining, for whatever reason, to rip out the stakes and strings that I had placed as supports for the bean plants that my kids had planted earlier in the spring.
The stakes and string were not very expensive, of course, nor very difficult to erect. I actually found the stakes for free, and it took me all of a few minutes to hammer them into the ground and run string between them. It will take me even less time and no money at all to return them to their places. In this sense, pulling a few stakes out of the ground is a mostly harmless bit of vandalism. It hurt no one, damaged little, cost nothing.
There is another sense, however, in which I find the pulling of my stakes to be a far more serious matter. It is indicative of a certain disregard, of a certain unconcern, of a certain closedness to the other, that is the profoundest enemy of community and neighbourhood and home. It is not a selfishness precisely, because it has as little true concern for the self as it has for the other. It is a closedness, both to the self and the other, a closedness to the self as it becomes itself only in relation to the other, a closedness to the self in community.
This closedness saddens me. It moves me to sorrow, not because of a few stakes and a bit of string, not because of a few extra minutes or a few extra dollars, but because it opposes entirely the possibility of the neighbourly and the communal and the familial, because it holds the seeds of inhumanity.