Last summer, beneath a lonely full moon that cried out to me, “Chill Out, Dude,” I relaxed a little. I enjoyed the solitude, the sound of waves slapping the hull, and the breeze filling the sails. When finally the sun dropped behind the pine trees to the west, I stirred only to discover the battery was dead. That meant no lights. Darkness stole the evening and my peaceful sail. Then, naturally, the breeze dropped out and the sails lay ideal, and Cassandra, a heavy, full-keeled, twenty-five-foot sailboat, came to an abrupt halt.I scrambled for a flashlight and quickly turned it on, aiming it at the sail. Not legal on this boat, it would at least make me seen. I started the engine, and headed back to the marina. A few people stormed by, as fast as possible, tossing Cassandra around in their wakes.
“TURN YOUR LIGHTS ON,” one man yelled. DUH! End of a lovely night.
I recall another lonely full moon. It was a long time ago. But perhaps that moon wasn’t really lonely. Perhaps the lonely one was me. I don’t think so, but what do I really know about how I feel. There was this beach that beckoned toe me in the relative cool of the evening. Waves gently stroked the sand. A breeze caressed the palm trees just behind me, the ones that lined the beach. Only a few peo
ple walked the beach at night. The guy that sold tourist souvenirs near the road had shut his doors; I suppose he headed home to dinner. The sun slipped quietly behind the palms. Silence echoed from shore to palm along the expanse of sand. Sitting like a recluse on that solitary stretch along the southern Indian coast, I felt serene.
A young man saw me and came to sit next to me. He spoke no English. I seemed to know that he didn’t want me to be alone. Perhaps he didn’t want to be alone. He just sat there watching the water slowly come toward us before it gently retracted. The moon’s reflection glittered on the ocean. All was well with the world. At least with our world, at least for that moment.
Every once and a while I think of that young man. Where was he going that night? Why did he stop to sit next to me? He didn’t say, “One Rupee, one Rupee,” like many other encounters I’d had in the previous months. He saw me, came to me, sat down. I really think, no matter where he was going, he didn’t want me to be alone.
There’s a difference between lonely and alone. Lonely can be experienced in a crowd, in a restaurant filled with people, or at a church service. Lonely is a feeling. Alone can be experienced when there is no one around with whom to share the beauty of the world. Alone is a situation that can be corrected. This night I was not lonely and I was not alone. The greatness of humanity is displayed in the kindness of one person toward another. It’s not love, as American’s define love. Brotherly love would be close. It’s the compassionate thing to do.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37)