Thoughts on Peace and “Love In Action”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

Early yesterday I posted a marvelous podcast from On Being from Congressman John Lewis, who took part in non violent protest during the Civil Rights era. It’s powerful and worth listening to many times especially on love in action and the power of that love.

Rage and hate and anger are high and powerful emotions. They are like sparks igniting dry timber, roiling hotter and deeper until it burns itself out, often leaving nothing in its wake.

Hate is an emotion of arousal. I’m not a neuroscientist but I imagine that when anger strikes or wrath, vengeance, bitterness, or the like, that there are hormonal and chemical cascades raising physical awareness and dampening one’s frontal lobe. More even so than fear, anger can feel good. It can feel right. It can feel like power, like how adrenaline feels like power.

Love and compassion and forgiveness are often more subtle feelings, ones leaving us at times feeling soft, vulnerable and weak. The spark of compassion isn’t as hot and quick as that of rage, nor does it spread through a crowd calming people in moments.

Indeed, crowds quite often can move from calm to angry and panicky almost as a single entity. Sanity gives way to the group experience of fear or hate and bad things happen.

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

This happens online too. Mobs form, people troll each other, gang-ups occur, doxing, threats. I’m not sure it’s really any different online than off, save for the physical altercations. Emotional stress is often just as painful as physical.

What’s wild is that no matter who you think “is right” in an argument, rage and hate, like that wild spark looking to set wood alight, will burn up anyone who lets it take hold.

Violence happens from right to left and left to right. From groups of people protesting Wall Street being beaten by cops, to fighting back. I’ve certainly seen plenty between MRA and Feminists online and on video in various protests, and I’ve seen parts of groups attack their own for not holding party lines.

One thing I notice in all of it is the anger. Whether physical harm, or careful political posturing, striking at the “other” the snark, the sarcasm, the pile-ons. And I get it. I’ve done it. It feels good. Rage and hate want you to like them. The want to feel good in your body, getting your synapses all fired up. They want to arouse you and quiet your thoughtfulness.

Peace doesn’t seem to stand a chance, huh?

But hate lies. It promises strength when all it leaves you with is a need for more hate, like a drug. It offers understanding when all it gives you is bitterness. It provides a place for energy but drains you in the end, and becomes a kind of addiction sucking the very life out of you.

Love on the other hand seems elusive and mysterious. But it needs practice. Love needs breath. Love needs a sense of purpose and mission. Love needs love and love makes love. It is a subtle change agent and one that can bring a country to it’s knees with change if only we’d practice it. It is not loud. It is not fire.

It’s water, working slowly and inexorably on rock, softening and sculpting a way.

And yes, it’s hard work. But it’s worth it.

“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches


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