Au Contraire: The Occasional Note from Peter Loffredo-"Defending Your Life"
I watched a funny movie last night that I haven't seen in a long time - "Defending Your Life," starring Albert Brooks and Merryl Streep. It's about two people who recently died and had to make their cases to the heavenly powers that be as to whether they would be allowed to stay in Heaven, or needed to be returned once again to live another lifetime on Earth. The determining factor on which the two would be judged was how well they learned to manage and overcome fear.
I found this quite fascinating. Fear. Not anger or greed or selfishness, but fear as the mortal sin that could prevent one from moving on to eternal bliss. I got it. Yes, fear. Why? Because fear, not hate, is the true opposite of love. In all disciplines of true understanding, be they spiritual or psychological, fear is understood to be the antithesis of love. Hate is an ugly, distorted expression, to be sure, but fear is what prevents love its expression and therefore leads to hate.
Love and hate are both based upon self-identification. In other words, you do not bother to love or hate someone you cannot identify with at all. In fact, you often love or hate another individual because the person evokes in you glimpses of yourself. And in the other person, you sense your own potential. In his or her eyes you see what you can be. But... you must first love yourself before you can love another. You cannot hate yourself and love anyone else, and as I discussed in my recent blog entry, "Full Permission Loving," love is the thing we all fear the most. (See that entry for the reason why we fear love so intensely.)
Lately, I am struck by how much hatred has begun to infuse our public discourse around the presidential campaign, and in particular, how much hatred is being directed at the least hateful candidate, Barack Obama. Spewing so much less vitriol than either Hillary Clinton or John McCain, Obama is spreading a message of unity and hope, and yet to watch the two other candidates and the far right pundits and talking heads, you'd think he was the devil incarnate. Why do they fear him, and therefore hate him, so much? Is there something so insidious about Mr. Obama that I am somehow missing, even after thirty years of studying the nature of human beings as a psychotherapist and sociologist?
Is Barack Obama really the Antichrist? Or could it be that perhaps those individuals who hate him have become so fearful of facing how separated they've become from their own best potential, so unable to inspire anything but negativity, anger and despair in others, and so removed from their genuine capacity to love, except abstractly of course, like loving the flag or the cross or the "troops," that they must seek to denigrate and destroy anyone who puts forth a message that is positive and loving? We've been here before haven't we? Martin Luther King, the Kennedy's, Ghandi, and of course, Jesus himself, all messengers of hope and unity, all brutally murdered for delivering that message. King himself once said this: "Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true."
I can't predict what will happen in the public square as this election year progresses. As a species, the human race seems to barely be in its adolescence developmentally, and we know how that goes so often. Maybe these more optimistic words by MLK can offer us some solace: "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.