When you’re sick, your doctor can’t prescribe the proper medicine until she’s made the proper diagnosis. She uses your symptoms to identify the disease. Without symptoms, you’d never have gone to the doctor in the first place because you wouldn’t have known you were sick. The disease would’ve killed you before you even realized you were dying, before you ever got the chance to do something about it. Thank God for symptoms. They hurt, but they are not what’s hurting you. It’s the disease that’s hurting you. The hurt is telling you to get help. Sometimes it howls, sometimes it whispers, but its message is always the same: we need medicine. You have to listen to the hurt if you are to survive the disease, and then you must find the medicine as soon as possible and take it immediately.
Hatred is the disease. It’s an expert at disguising itself as something else – righteousness, morality, reason, justice. It knows how to hide its symptoms, too, and if it can’t, it knows how to convince you that they’re not problematic, that they’re sensible, even. Hatred can seem so rational, which is why it’s such an insidious and efficient killer.
“Yes,” it says, “look at those hateful terrorists, blowing up innocent people in Brussels and Baghdad. I hate them. And here, look at Donald Trump, preaching such hateful things. Goddamn I hate that man. And I hate all of his hateful followers, too, sucker punching and spitting and screaming. Hate them with me. You certainly shouldn’t love them. You’d be insane to love them. It’d be negligent and naïve to love. Dangerous, even. No, you have to hate them. Why would you do anything else?”
And slowly it starts to makes sense. Why would I ever love Donald Trump? Like, really love him. Even crazier, why would I ever love ISIS? Only a madman would love a murderer. “Sure,” I find myself thinking, “It’s just the logical thing to do. I hate all those hateful bastards.” And that’s the first moment of infection. The disease has now taken hold, because hatred is hatred, regardless of what or who it projects itself upon. A most lethal, contagious disease. It is never for life. It is always for death, even its own, as it will eventually kill the host that keeps it alive, and so die with it. The human mind is its host, and since the human body hosts the human mind, the body and mind are both at stake, and since we’re all living together in the same world, none of us is fully immune so long as any of us are sick. We are one human body, infected with one disease, and there is one medicine that will save us. We each must take this medicine and apply it personally, individually, bearing our part in this global course of treatment and healing.
But what does it mean, to bear our part? And what is the medicine?
The response to hate’s temptations must always be a categorical No. Unconditional refusal. Absolute rejection. This conviction must be unshakeable, immovable, implacable, and ever-present. I do not hate you. I will not hate you. I have taken my medicine well and this disease has no home in me. Cultivating a state of invulnerability to the satanic snake’s silver-tongued slitherings, a state where I’ve become so profoundly uninterested in the snake’s apples that it has stopped peddling them to me altogether, where there’s no temptation whatsoever, only the abiding understanding that the apples are poisonous, regardless of the form they take. Apple pie. Apple crisp. Apple crumble. Apple bars. Applesauce. Sliced apples with peanut butter. Sliced apples with apple butter. Apple juice. Apple cider. Apple anything, it’s all poison. The snake, which is my own mind’s capacity for hatred, has tried everything, and I want none of it. That’s the state I must learn, we all must learn, and it can only be learned by apprenticing ourselves to the betrayals and tragedies that befall us, the suffering, the fire, those moments that say, “Now this atrocity, this violation, surely you’re allowed to hate them for this. Surely love has no place here.” And yeah, you’re allowed to do whatever you want. We’re all free to be as diseased as we desire, or as free.
The medicine is free, if not easy: a love that has been tried and made true. This love is not passive. It doesn’t mean rolling over and doing nothing. It means changing why we do what we do. What we do and how we do it will change naturally once love is the why. Each of us gets to spend our lives understanding that why. We get to live this medicine.
To put it plainly again, in case the deluded logic of hate is creeping into your consciousness as you read this, or in case you think these words are the fluffy stuff of kumbaya fantasy: hating that which hates is hate. When I hate that which hates, I’ve become that which hates, a different manifestation of the very same thing I’m abhorring. I’ve become hate’s puppet. I tied the strings to my own limbs, and now the puppeteer moves me however it wants, and it only ever wants one thing: to make war with its other puppets, little wars and big wars, emotional wars and physical wars, wars in all ways. The puppeteer has millions of puppets, maybe even billions. It has so many wars to make, and an endless urge to make them. The puppeteer will never cut the strings of its puppet. Somehow, the puppet must.
Hate will never heal. That is what love does. That is what love is. It is the surest way to freedom, the only true healing, the final medicine. Often it’s bitter. Often just the thought of it makes me gag. But eating this medicine in the sick moments of my own little life is the only way the big blue world will heal. To anoint my mind with this ointment each morning is to bless each person that comes into my experience that day. Rubbing this salve onto my body, into my wounds, over my aches and pains, this is rubbing the body of the world with love. If I don’t start here, with me, now, how can I be expected to start anywhere else, with anyone else, ever?
We must love, absolutely. This is not lunacy. It is lunacy when one human being kills another, or strikes another, or hates another, regardless of the context. It is lunacy that such a statement would be considered lunacy by so many in our world today. This is the disease. We are infected, so profoundly that most of us don’t even know it. We must pay attention to the symptoms before the disease destroys us all. We must find the medicine and take it immediately, a big-ass dose, over and over again. There’s no need to seek out a doctor and no need to wait in line, because the doctor is you, the medicine is here, and the treatment starts now.