Sunday, February 20, 2011

Love Is Wise, Hatred Is Foolish

In the later years of his life the British philosopher Bertrand Russell was asked: What would you think it’s worth telling future generations about the life you’ve lived and the lessons you’ve learned from it? His reply follows:

I should like to say two things, one intellectual and one moral. The intellectual thing I should want to say is this: When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed. But look only, and solely, at what are the facts. That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say.
The moral thing I should wish to say...I should say love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world which is getting more closely and closely interconnected we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way and if we are to live together and not die together we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.

It has been my experience that hating is often a learned behavior that our brain justifies and protects. It takes a deliberate, conscious effort to challenge the assumptions and paradigms of our minds and weed out those that embrace hatred toward others. When I consider the words of Bertrand Russell I'm struck by a sense of urgency. Rather than talking about it, rather then hearing his words and nodding my head in agreement, I'm compelled to revisit my beliefs, challenge them again in this new light.

Hatred cannot be viewed as a benign irritation, but rather the enemy of our very existence. We must not only continue down the path of tolerance and love, but hurry along with renewed determination. Challenge ourselves, test our beliefs, ferret out the myths that bind us to our prejudices and exclusive thinking. But we can't leave it at the level of thought. We must translate those thoughts into actions and deeds. We must create social memes that shun the underlying ideologies of hatred. We must cease the foolishness.