Having written the book and reflected on it for a while, I’ve been wondering what the essence of it really is. In a world where brutal dictators are hung, with violence piled upon violence, where the birthplace of our faith rips itself apart in acts of frustrated self-harm, and – as the BBC reported the other day – in a country where four fifths of the population don’t think that good relationships with neighbours is important… In such a world as this, what possible relevance could a book paralleling the theory of emergent systems with the gospel have?
As 2007 begins, I’ll begin with the only conclusion I can come to: love thy neighbour.
Complex, emerging systems such as you might read about in the book – or in more depth in Steven Johnsons Emergence – rely on the local, neighbourly connection. The grand designs of our minds, the viral web of the internet… neither of these rely on high-level connection. They work because at the low level they are interconnected.
In 2007 what can we do to stop the global violence, to prevent climate change, to improve our cities, to build bridges across the divides in and around our beliefs? Only one thing: make low-level connections. Walk, don’t take the car. Be kind. Show love to those who disagree with you.
A recent commentator on the radio highlighted the problem of dealing with anti-social behaviour in a world where there is no neighbourly relationships: the only route is to call the police, which ramps up the tension and solves little in the long term. It’s very hard to be antisocial when you are in good relationship with your neighbours.
So perhaps we are left with this single resolution as we head into 07: try to love our neighbours more. Why? Well, as the aboriginal leader Lilla Watson said,
"If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us walk together."
This interdependence is, I believe, at the heart of the gospel, and at the heart of what I’ve tried to write about.