One of the more amusing aspects of life that one finds when one does not go out much is one’s observation of what is going on in the neighborhood. And I will be the first to admit that I do not live in a particularly exciting neighborhood (not that this is a bad thing). There are times of day and night where lots of cars come because the schedules of people are not so different. There are plenty of occasions where cars are parked because my neighborhood is relatively convenient to the larger streets around and so street parking is convenient if sometimes irritating, and also it’s a common enough place for people to turn around or to park their car when they run out of gas, as happened this afternoon. But sometimes something interesting does happen, such as when our local postal worker comes in to deliver mail on a Sunday.
Now, it is not common for mail to be delivered on a Sunday. Technically speaking, the Postal service only delivers priority mail and packages on Sundays, and so it was that when our local mailman came pulling in our neighborhood in the early afternoon, it drew interest, especially because I was informed this is not an uncommon thing, and that the driver has someone he likes to visit. I must admit that I found this to be humorous, and I wonder if the postal carrier knows that his haunts or his interest in some of the people in our neighborhood has drawn the attention of others. I tend to think that our lives are far more interesting to other people than we think is or ought to be the case.
I think this is what neighborhoods and neighbors are all about. At least that is how neighborhoods have worked throughout history. When one is a kid, they offer people one can play with and fight with and the like. But as one gets older, they offer the source of information and become both the source of surveillance on oneself and people that one can observe and whose habits one can take note of and privately judge. I remember one time I took a walk with my cousin around the neighborhood where our grandparents lived, where I noted the home of people I used to play sports with, and along the course of the walk I heard numerous details about some of the people in those houses even as I thought of other matters that had happened since I had known the people in those houses. And, quite naturally, I pondered what is it that these people would have thought about me and about my family, because surely we thought about them and their doings.
What is the point of people being in neighborhoods surrounded by observant people who see us and judge us, even as we observe and judge them? This tendency is certainly exploited by totalitarian regimes who have enlisted people to spy on their neighbors and report on interesting happenings, thus poisoning the relationship that people have with others and turning one’s neighbors into spies and informers. Yet it seems as if spying and informing is at least part of the purpose of neighbors. One of the lessons of life that people have a hard time understanding is that what we do is observed by God. We tend to think that we have a far higher ability to keep secrets than we actually do, and the presence of observant neighbors and our own self-knowledge of our own observation ought to let us know that we are watched, for good and for ill, and that we can figure that others are at least as observant of us as we are about them. Make of that what you will.