John S. Dunne, the Jesuit writer, says that we meet three strangers in life. Whether we live successfully depends upon whether we make friends of these strangers, or if they become enemies.
The first stranger is the world. When we are conceived, we are totally connected to the world as we know it, our mother’s womb, her body and psyche. After we are born, we still don’t think of ourselves as separate. We are solipsists, we don’t know the difference between our own skin and the blanket we are wrapped in or the bed we lie on. Gradually, we make the distinction. We are separate from the world. Now the world is a stranger…
The second stranger is sexuality. We are going along very nicely, riding our bikes, playing with our friends, and suddenly Adam’s apples and breasts develop, hormones kick in, we are sexual people, driven by nature to reproduce, although we experience it, really, as just feeling a need for sex. Will we control our sexuality, or will it control us? Will it be a friend or an enemy?
The third stranger is mortality. There is a maxim that in grade school years, we learn that others die. In high school, we learn that we shall die. That’s one of the reasons for the major identity crisis of adolescence. If we’re going to die anyway, what’s the use of life?
I suppose “aging” can be thought of as part of mortality, but to me, it seems separate. When we get old enough that we are no longer producers, that the world does not need us, except as decorative items at family gatherings, how do we make peace with that? Will this fourth stranger of aging be a friend, as we make peace with our past and our current nothingness, as well as with our impending death, or will this stranger become an enemy of despair?
Over and through all, there is the first and final stranger, the Alpha and the Omega, God. We make friends with the world and sexuality and mortality and aging by making friends with God. We make friends with God by making friends of the world and sexuality and mortality and aging.