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Classics

A Great Human Reality

Normally, if people come across a fugitive, a wanderer or a stranger, they kill him. The radical change occurs the day when such a person is received as a guest and as someone sent by God. This radical change can be observed, in particular, in the two great civilizations from which our own originates: the Greek civilization and the Semitic one

[This article is published in Oasis no. 24. To read all the contents buy a copy or subscribe] Hospitality is, first of all, a great human reality. The Greeks saw in it one of the principal features of a civilised people; and it may be said, in a certain sense, that in their eyes what used to characterise the degree of civilization in a people or race was their conception of hospitality. One can understand just what an achievement hospitality is if one remembers a surprising linguistic fact, namely, that in many languages, the same root serves to indicate both “guest” and “enemy”. In other words, underpinning these two categories, there is that still undifferentiated reality that is the alien. The alien – the one who does not belong to the race or the biological or sociological unity – can be considered in two ways: as an enemy or as a guest. And it may be said that civilization took a decisive step, perhaps the decisive step, the day the alien, the enemy, became the guest. That is to say, the day when the human community came into being. Up until then, there were human species at war with each other in the primordial forest just like the animal species; but the day one recognises in the alien a guest, so that the alien, instead of being devoted to execration, is clothed with singular dignity, it may well be said that on that day something has changed in the world. [This article is published in Oasis no. 24. To read all the contents buy a copy or subscribe]

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