You don’t hate the world. You love it so hard you can barely stand it.
You can’t look that love square in the eye because you fear being burned up by it. To embrace love is to embrace a possibly total self-immolation.
I’m sorry that the truth is so simple.
There’s a lyric I cherish — that’s so well-worn most people barely even see the words, our eyes just pass over, reading a short chirp of cultural context. But it always arrests me, pulls me like a magnet ripped towards its rightful place.
“it takes strength to be gentle and kind”
I first read it tattooed on someone’s chest before I’d ever listened to the Smiths song. I was overwhelmed by respect for them, I wanted to tell them they were one of the most noble and whole persons I’d ever met. That I saluted their audacity and drive. That their bravery and heroism in openly championing such fighting words went beyond that of many widely recognized geniuses and revolutionaries I brush up against. I didn’t, of course.
That line is often read as a corrective. As a femme manifesto. As saying that it’s hard to be gentle and kind — that this is the harder, more challenging, and venerable path. That gentleness and kindness are like a Mount Everest to be climbed. An arena to prove oneself. That it demonstrates a kind of resilience and determination. A particular ‘flavor’ of strength. With its own legitimacy.
This is true, as far as it goes.
But I prefer a different read.
To live is to love. Because to live is to model, to reach out, to press oneself up against the beyond. To take it into you and churn on it. To change. To be torn apart, unraveling out in all directions. Greedily.
Anything else is retreat. The slow hard ossification of a self-built tomb. Of slowly crusting over shells, encasing what little spinning out light remains. The opposite of love and life is something so unnoteworthy it doesn’t deserve a name. Doesn’t deserve the pomposity and suddenness of “death”. Death we notice. Death is a kind of boundary. The opposite of love is something beyond that. It is so base it does not warrant a name.
Hatred, anger, rage, are the sheaths of love. The crystalline crusted skin that forms around it as it courses molten through this world.
There is no strength outside life. No sense in ever judging strength in relation to anything other than life.
It can take strength to be angry or to be furious, certainly. But that strength is not in the anger or the fury. These are but always vectors, at best still drawing from a much warmer fire. Delivering it outward. Across the various fissures and jagged broken structures that mark the boundaries around us.
Anger, rage, hardness, and their kin, do not always take strength. They are often what we are left with when strength recedes. Their obsidian flows are easy and smooth. Capable of great things, but at the same time brittle. They are what we are often left with. What becomes an outline of us. Their greatest virtue is precisely that they do not require strength.
It takes strength to be gentle and kind.
Everything you are is the result of your love. What makes obsidian cut is the heat that once flowed through it. Your life is a love story. A bursting surging torrent of love spilling outward onto and into everyone and everything. Burrowing and snaking, growing branches.
You are not the rocky blackened crystalline exterior, you are what is soft and warm, straining and bubbling beneath.
Compassion is not an ancillary value, it is the essence of cognition, of life. The rawness of empathy and caring connection, that so often dissolves away everything we thought we were, is what propels and constitutes you.
That’s all there is to it.
There are no endlessly complicated structures to trace, to reassuringly fixate our eyes on, to comfort ourselves with interpretive pastimes. The truth glows so brightly it is hard to look at, painful, terrifying, destructive. There is no harnessing it. You fear that if you dare to turn and look directly at it you will be consumed. It doesn’t matter. The truth is still the truth.