My favorite quote of all time is from Chief Dan George (1899-1981), born Geswanouth Slahoot of the Salish Band of British Columbia:
If you talk to the animals,
they will talk with you and
you will know each other.
If you do not talk to them,
you will not know them,
And what you do not know you will fear.
What one fears, one destroys.
The last line is the most important of this wisdom; it is appropriate, especially, for the human animal and our relationship with our fellow humans. The opposite of Love is not Hate – the opposite of Love is Fear.
For example, consider the basis of a racist comment about immigrants – a comment that is generally based on fear of that group. Perhaps the person making the comment is concerned or fearful about losing his job to an immigrant — whether or not that concern is justified, the result is a genuine fear that will affect how that person looks at all immigrants. Or, perhaps a person has harbored undisclosed doubts about the faith in which she was raised, doubts that she has been taught are blasphemous – because she is afraid to voice these doubts, she begins to be fearful of those who do voice their doubts; perhaps her fear becomes so intense, that she fears other religions and, hence, begins to distrust and “hate” those of other faiths.
Much has been written and said about Fear and its effect – perhaps, most famously in FDR’s first inaugural address: “the only thing we have to Fear is Fear itself.” In Roosevelt’s case, he proposed Truth and Action as an antidote to Fear, rather than Love (although he did allude to it in his further statement that “our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.”) I grant that one definition of Love could be “Truth in Action.” Another definition might be “concern for the Other over concern for the Self.” My personal definition of Love is “Acceptance of the Beauty and Value and Divinity of the Other” – not “in spite of” the differences, but because of the differences.
My life philosophy is based on Love and rejects Fear as a motivator. (I use the term “life philosophy” rather than “religion” as a guiding ethic because I believe everyone follows a philosophy that guides their life, whether they consider themselves “faith-driven” or atheist.) Whenever I find myself staring down a pathway of Fear, I make a conscious effort to redirect that path and replace it with directions of calm Love.
Fear is so prevalent is much of today’s rhetoric, from the political to the religious. An example can be found in both political speeches which vilify the Other – and inspire Fear of the Other – and in sermons which threaten the listener with eternal damnation if the Other is not ostracized. As John Pavlovitz says: “Fear is a powerful drug. It’s a fantastic political tactic. It’s a wonderful manipulator. It’s an effective motivator. But it’s a really lousy religion.”
Consider these words from the Litany Against Fear (from Dune by Frank Herbert): “…Fear is the mind killer.” I submit that Fear is more than Herbert’s “mind killer” – Fear is the killer of humanity, both our humanity to each other and potentially the killer of our species.
Fear can cause us to be immobilized to face real dangers, just as it causes us to conjure imagined dangers. I challenge the reader to replace the word Love in Herbert’s Litany of Fear and see the result…that “Only Love will remain.”
Do not fear the unknown; do not fear the Other. But, I also exhort you to not give your loyalty based upon Fear – that is, be wary of those who call you to Fear. Do not fear them, but do not accede to their demands either, for no one who wishes you well would attempt to earn your loyalty based on Fear.
Give allegiance, instead, to those who call you to a higher plane, who ask you to Love. ..because Love provides long-term stability. Love provides a future.