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Strangers by Choice

An Asocial Philosophy of Life.- Translated by Tul'si Bhambry and Agnieszka Waśkiewicz. Editorial work by Tul'si Bhambry.

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Andrzej Waskiewicz

Strangers by Choice explores voluntary otherness as a philosophy of life. This philosophy is asocial in the sense that its followers tend to privilege separateness over belonging, and yet it does not lead to alienation or isolation from society. Building on Simmel’s notion of the stranger, the author sheds light on the experience of spiritual idealists, both real and fictional, who maintain a distance from mainstream society in order to live by the laws of their transcendental homelands. Waśkiewicz addresses representations of strangeness from a broad spectrum of Western culture, including Stoic philosophy, Augustine of Hippo, Henry David Thoreau, the physicist Richard Feynman, and finally Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Highlighting how these writers and thinkers have negotiated individuality and community, this interdisciplinary study contributes to debates on identity in both practical philosophy and the history of ideas.
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Chapter 2. Towards the Heavenly Abode

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Chapter 2

Towards the Heavenly Abode

A Christian in times of trouble

The anonymous late second-century Epistle to Diognetus is a key source text illustrating the social condition of the early Christians. It presents the followers of Christ as living on islands of the new faith surrounded by a sea of paganism. Christians are alien to the world, just as the world is alien to them. Spiritually, the Christian community does not belong to the world.

For Christians are no different from other people in terms of their country, language, or customs. Nowhere do they inhabit cities of their own, use a strange dialect, or live life out of the ordinary. […] They live in their respective countries, but only as resident aliens; they participate in all things as citizens, and they endure all things as foreigners. Every foreign territory is a homeland for them, every homeland foreign territory. […] Christians are spread throughout the cities of the world. The soul lives in the body, but it does not belong to the body; Christians live in the world but do not belong to the world.1

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