Saturday, July 09, 2005

Love and Fear (reprint)

After 9/11, we didn't get it. Now, hopefully we will. We will understand that the cycle of violence must end, and that responding in kind to violence will only get us more of the same in return.

We as a species need to develop a new way of relating to one another, and fast. We need to recognize the humanity in each other, and stop letting the fundamentalists play on our fears. It is vitally important that we stop succumbing to their agenda.

I observed in my previous post that thousands uneccessarily with no attention in Africa everday. It is disturbing that so much attention is paid to tragedies that occur in the West, to the exclusion of likewise attention to the rest of the world.

That said, I believe an opportunity presents itself here for the world to united against violence. Violence is wrong, regardless of whom the target is, and in the immortal words of chief Seattle, we are all connected, and that which hurts one of us hurts us all in some way. Love isn't a choice here folks. Our world continues to become more and more violent, and if we're going to rescue ourselves, we will have to see that in the battle between love and fear, we must let love prevail.

On that note, I am now going to reprint an essay on Love and Fear I wrote over a year ago:

There are two primary motivations, two primary sources for action. One is love, and the other is fear. Mahatma Gandhi was motivated by love. So were Martin Luther King, Jesus, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and other great humanitarians. Adolph Hitler was motivated by fear. So was Mussolini, Joe McCarthy, Ernst Zundal, Richard Nixon, and others, as are currently, George W Bush and Osama Bin Laden.

Any solution to the world's problems must be motivated by love. Fear is the source of reaction. We react, lash out wild-eyed and defensively at the Other, without knowing exactly where we are lashing or where it will lead. It is not a productive or efficient use of energy.

Love is the source of proaction. We recognize not only what the Other is doing to us, but also how we are feeling, and the humanity in the Other. Love is purposeful, thoughtful, and compassionate. A response to an injustice based on love holds the Other to account, and presses for a fair resolution of the injustice, but does so nonviolently and while recognizing the humanity in the Other.

An action that lashes out in defensiveness and resorts to lavelling of the Other is based on fear. An action,or lack thereof, to appease or avoid confrontation is also based on fear. An action that nonviolently and humanely challenges an injustice is based on love.

We all should have no air of superiority when it comes to moral quality. We all have within us the capacity for good and evil. Obviously, one of these qualities becomes more manifest that the other in most of us. There are extreme examples at both ends, such as Gandhi and Hitler. In fact, near the end of his life, after gaining independence for India, Gandhi said that the only the only devils we must conquer are those running around in our own hearts. We must always be vigilant to ensure that it is the good in us that triumphs.

I also think that it is humbling to be ever mindful of the duality of out moral nature. This duality belies those, including those currently in power in the US, who would attempt to simplify matters by attaching easy labels, such as "evil", to the Other, as opposed to acknowledging the moral complexity of a situation. If we have this duality in mind, so much easier will it be to see the humanity in those who serve injustice upon us, and to answer injustices with acts motivated by love. The Other says, "I loathe you," or "I want to hurt you." We say, "those feelings are part of the human experience, but there must be a better, more constructive way of relating to me. I know, I have felt those emotions before, as we all have, but we must not let them win. We must not let fear rule our lives. What are you afraid of? Maybe I can help.

The emotion of anger does not itself possess a moral quality. It can come from fear, or it can come from love. The moral quality is contained in the response inspired by the anger, which will be influenced by the motivation i.e. love or fear. Motivated by fear, anger will lash out defensively, indifferent to its effect on the Other. Inspired by love, anger will be constructively channelled into nonviolent opposition to the inustice which is triggering the anger.

I believe that a further word is required about fear. Sometimes, fear is natural and inevitable. If someone points a loaded gun at me, it would be natural to be afraid. Or, if I encounter a mountain lion while hiking in the woods, fear should instigate a flight response. This is related to the avoidant response I mentioned earlier. There are situations, such as interactions with other animal species, where it is the only sensible response. If you are faced with a choice between avoidance and certain death i.e. becoming someone's dinner, choose the former. Nevertheless, anytime there is a hostile encounter with another human, we must overcome the fear in our hearts, and let love triumph.

Another form of fear occurs when faced with harm or death, due to some illness or bodily injuries. It is natual to experience fear, and it is psychologically important to acknowlege that. However, it is also an opportunity to love oneself and others as never before. It is a time to reflect on one's life, and to make the most of its remainder. This is proaction -recognizing the purpose of one's existence, and working to fulfill that purpose - and it is based on love.

It has been said before that the opposite of love is greed, or selfishness. While not a desirable quality, I don't believe that greed is at the core of the problem. I think it goes deeper than that. I have used the phrase "the fear in your heart." In the phrase, substitute "greed" for "fear." The greed in your heart." It doesn't work. What is in your heart is honest, pure, unadulterated. Fear is honest, it is real, it isw what is at the core of reaction. Greed is often dishonest, required to be so by its self-consumed pursuits. Greed is a negative approach to social relations. However, if we strip away the surface, the pretenses, the show, the facades of greed, what do we find, purely there, the basest instinct, without having been given any time to think or scheme. I believe it is fear.

The kind of world we see in the future will depend on which human motivation dominates. Will fear continue to divide us according to race, religion, gender, etc? Or, will love bring us together; will the love we have for our fellow human beings overpower our fear? That is the question of the time.