Saturday, June 9, 2007

On "The Doctrine of Hatred"

Three difficult sayings:

1. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in "Self-Reliance":
Your goodness must have some edge to it--else it is none. The doctrine of hatred must be preached, as the counteraction of the doctrine of love, when that pules and whines.

2. Jesus, in The Gospel of Thomas (#55):
Whoever does not hate his father and his mother cannot become a disciple to me. And whoever does not hate his brothers and sisters and take up his cross in my way will not be worthy of me. (See Also)

3. Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William S. Smith:

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ...And what country can preserve its liberties, if it's rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

If you understand Jefferson, you may be able to understand Emerson. What would it mean for the "doctrine of love" to pule and whine? How would the doctrine of hatred be a solution? The "dark" American romance writers--Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Dickinson--were deeply unsatisfied with the sentimental novels permeating the publishing industry in the 1820s-1840s. If you've never had the time to read any of these novels, trust me: they're mushy. They typically espouse a banal doctrine of "love" and graciousness, often warning young ladies against marrying a "rake." The love expressed in those books seems, for most people today, to fall flat, to be inauthentic, insincere. It took a refreshed understanding (via refreshed language) to restore the genuineness to the old and ever-true "doctrine of love." Similarly in Russia during the 1860s, when the "Sons" refused to accept the values and definitions of the "Fathers."

On the other hand, I wonder if an "opposite" dynamic may be true as well. E.M. Cioran confessed,
When I catch myself nursing an impulse to Revolt, I take a sleeping pill or consult a psychiatrist. Any means will due if you pursue Indifference without being predisposed to it.

Any genius will see how love and hatred may be the same coin--different words for the same giant thing; but only a prophet may discover how passion and indifference are kindred as well.

4 comments:

Wishydig said...

The use of hatred in the bible is slippery. It's not always used as we would use it today -- with the connotation of passion.

In Malachi the prophet 'quotes' G-d saying "Yet I have loved Jacob but I have hated Esau;" and Paul cites this in Romans while defending G-d for showing favor to whomever he pleases.

The contrast between loving and hating was often just about favour or preference.

But that's little comfort when you look at the rest of Malachi and you see what 2nd place gets you. Even if it is dispassionate the result is pretty harsh.

Casey said...

I'm not sure about G=d's "love" or "hate." I hesitate to even use the terms because of how much (as you point out) they seem to have changed through time... I'm not sure we understand what "they" meant by those terms.

But let's say I want all of humanity to love one another. I could give commandments like "love your neighbor as yourself," and that could become the doctrine of love. But when that pules and whines, I might decide to rally everyone to hate a common enemy--that way, they may accidentally discover what love really is. I'm pretty sure this is "mad Ahab's" quest in Moby-Dick. He's handed a shipfull of the most diverse bunch you could imagine, and what could bring them all together but a single object of hate? In their chase, the crew on board Ahab's ship discover a real bond that may have been difficult to form on land, where the doctrine of love had so permeated the world as to become almost meaningless.

But your suggestion makes me wonder--maybe G-d was almost indifferent, but love and hate (from G-d) signified, as you say, favor.

What do you think about typing "G=d" as a show of my progressivism?

Davo said...

Yes--I'm not one to crit, but if I WERE to criticise, it would be that the order of quote presentation is off...Jefferson especially shows that responsibility lies on the individual. Not in being able to overthrow, but in being rightly enough informed to know that overthrow is the proper option. This doesn't fit the current discussion, but seems cogent in current social discourse, where responsibility seems to be less important than one's decision to effect change.

Casey said...

Well said, Davo. And another correct usage of the verb "lie," which happens all the time at Q-Majin.