“I am full of hate. Will you please teach me how to love?”
In Think on These Things, a school child asks J. Krishnamurti the above question. His answer shocked me:
“No one can teach you how to love. If people could be taught how to love, the world problem would be very simple, would it not? If we could learn how to love from a book as we learn mathematics, this would be a marvelous world; there would be no hate, no exploitation, no wars, no division of rich and poor, and we would all be really friendly with each other. But love is not so easily come by.
I imagine that you — like me — don’t want to agree with Krishnamurti’s conclusion that love can’t be taught. But he has a point. Efforts to promote love have been around a long time — Jesus of Nazareth was a big fan — and still love hasn’t really taken over. Maybe teaching love is like dieting — it seems like a logical and hopeful practice, but if ANY version of the practice actually worked, then wouldn’t everyone in America be slender?
An even less welcome idea
“It is easy to hate, and hate brings people together after a fashion; it creates all kinds of fantasies, it brings about various types of cooperation as in war.”
Why is it easy to hate?
The likely culprit is adrenaline. Hating gives us a hair-trigger-quick-and-easy buzz via the fight-or-flight hormone and its associated benefits:
- physical strength
- heightened sense of what is known as exquisite pleasure, and
- ability to summon passionate energy during an argument, conflict, or cause.
Alas, as with other kinds of false joy, adrenaline takes us to the mountain top then drops us off the edge. Although — especially to a person desperate for joy — this quick route is intoxicating, it is not the all-nourishing and deep well-being of love.
So what are we to do?
“You cannot learn how to love, but what you can do is observe hate and put it gently aside. Don’t battle against hate, don’t say how terrible it is to hate people, but see hate for what it is and let it drop away; brush it aside, it is not important. What is important is not to let hate take root in your mind. Do you understand? Your mind is like rich soil, and if given sufficient time any problem that comes along takes root like a weed, and then you have the trouble of pulling it out; but if you do not give the problem sufficient time to take root, then it has no place to grow and it will wither away. If you encourage hate, give it time to take root, to grow, to mature, it becomes an enormous problem.”
The Indian sage reminds me of the prince in The Land of the Blue Flower by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1938-ish — my favorite version was illustrated by Judith Ann Griffith around 1993):
“There is no time for hatred.”
My friend Melissa often reminds me of Anne Lamott‘s story — from Operating Instructions — of pre-date shopping with her bestest friend Pammy who was dying of cancer. Anne slipped into a tight, hot, little dress. She felt a thrill of joy. But. She immediately contracted and moaned some age-old question along the lines of “does this make my butt look big? Pammy’s answer?
“Oh, honey. You haven’t got that kind of time.”
None of us do.
So what happens if we let hatred — including self-hatred — drift on without attention?
“… if each time hate arises you let it go by then you will find that your mind becomes very sensitive without being sentimental; therefore you will know love.”
Tucked inside Krishnamurti’s sentence is what I find to be a most beautiful description of at least one component of loving: sensitivity of mind.
… Krishnamurti believes in a “negative” process for developing love’s sensitive mind, one in which we notice hate and then don’t feed it or dwell in it. He doesn’t believe we can use a proactive mental process to develop love:
“The mind can pursue sensations, desires, but it cannot pursue love. Love must come to the mind.”
How to let something — like hate — drop away
The problem is that as soon as we resolve not to dwell on something, the Ironic Monitoring Impulse makes it very very very hard to think of anything else. In addition to the all-important first step of noticing the hate, what can help is to replace the thinking you don’t want to nourish with something else — a poem, a breath, a drink of water, a step outside into the night air, or anything beautiful. I believe this tending is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and the world.
The prince in The Land of the Blue Flower tasked his people with sowing the seeds of the blue flower, for:
“If you fill your mind with a beautiful thought, there will be no room for an ugly one.”
PS — What kind of love?
You’ll notice I have not even defined what I mean by love. Of course love remains too mysterious to describe in full — it is, perhaps, in some ways, the ineffable — but are we talking romantic, sexual, spiritual, or friendly love? Krishnamurti believes there are not different kinds of loves — all are one:
“And, when once love is there, it has no division as sensuous and divine: it is love. That is the extraordinary thing about love: it is the only quality that brings a total comprehension of the whole existence.”
Mystery as total comprehension. Beautiful.