Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Opposite of Love

This post was sparked by a comment on Facebook by Keith Groover (whom you should see if you're in need of any kind of musical instruction - let him teach you, or let him recommend somebody to you if it's one of the instruments he doesn't want to teach you). His remark was as follows: 

"I've heard many people say over the years that the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. When I think about that, though, I realize that I vastly prefer someone who is indifferent to me over one who hates me."

This is a popular saying - I have to admit to having used it myself. Let's put aside our indifference to the phrase, and decide if we love it or hate it.

Emotional Appeal

There are several reasons that this phrase makes us feel good. We don't like to think that people might hate us - or that we might hate someone. Just not thinking about somebody is, at worst, a sin of omission not commission. It goes against conventional modes of speech, which makes us feel modern and free-thinking - or for that matter, thinking at all. From the artist's perspective, one prefers to have either praise or panning and not, as Keith put it, "a resounding yawn". It matter to us that other people think of us. We hate it when people are indifferent, even if we're indifferent to their hatred - but only if we care about either them or us, and it usually mostly us. We tend to take things personally.

Logical Test

Let's attempt to define some really nebulous terms. Since Wikipedia is the compilation of all common human knowledge, we'll use that resource for definitions.

Love:  an emotion of a strong affection and personal attachment.

Hate:  a deep and emotional extreme dislike that can be directed against individuals, entities, objects, or ideas.

Indifference:  an absence of interest in or concern about emotional, social, spiritual, philosophical and/or physical life.

Love vs Hate: The similarities are both indicate strong emotion, both are personal in some way, both indicate some level of attachment, both indicate an active emotion. The differences are: affection or dislike.

Love vs Indifference: The similarities are only that they both deal with emotional content in some way - love by action, and indifference by inaction. The differences are emotion or lack thereof, affection or absence of interest.

Hate vs Indifference: The similarities and differences are the same as love vs indifference (except of course substituting the word Hate for the word Love).

Logically, both hate and indifference are opposite of love. Hate is love's opposite in direction, and indifference is love's opposite in essence - the complete lack of any strong emotion, attachment or interest. Indifference is the opposite of hate in the same way that it is the opposite of love.

Accurate, or Alternative Needed?

As the saying goes, pain is in the hand of the bee-holder. It depends on what you, as the object of said emotion or lack thereof, were hoping to get from the other person. Let's face it: using a saying like this is the equivalent of saying "It's all about me". Existentially, of course, you are correct. If what you really wanted was attention, but didn't get it, you feel the opposite of loved. If you wanted constructive input, but were ignored, you feel the opposite of love.

Really, though, this is an excuse. We can justify ignoring another person (I don't care if you're talking about the person himself or his ideas or work, it's still ignoring the person - we are holistic beings, and everything we produce is part of us) by calling it lack of time, promotion of peace, or other reasonable-sounding names. It's so much work to hate somebody, often even more than it is to love them.

The reason it is so much work, is that it means we still care. We care about what the other thinks. The other person has an effect on our lives. We have to put effort into it, at maintaining that particular kind of relationship. And we often develop "an emotion of a strong affection and personal attachment" for the hatred at least, if not for the thing we hate. We wind up loving to hate. They are just too closely related in the human experience to be completely separated.

So check yourself when you are tempted to use this phrase. Are you trying to justify someone - most likely yourself? Are you feeling oppressed, depressed, or repressed? Because, let's face it: the only one of these ways of relating to people that we should want to make a part of us is love. So let us love love, and consider hate or indifference states that must be overcome by love.

Let's try this rephrase: The opposite of love is a challenge for me to make a difference.


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