A few Sundays ago, my beau and I were strolling through the hayfields of the Falcon Ridge Folk Fest when we ran across this bumper sticker. It annoyed me, though at first I wasn’t sure why. It said, as you already know if you saw the image above and you’re one of the 12 surviving people who still read cursive: HATE IS EASY; LOVE TAKES COURAGE.
I looked at it and thought, wrong wrong wrong wrong WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG.
“No way,” I said aloud. “Love is easy.”
Given the horrors of El Paso and Dayton, hate was on my mind. I’ve never understood it. Never. A) because it misses the entire point of being alive; B) because every piece of secular and sacred wisdom in the history of humankind has warned against its evils; and C) because it seems to take so much effort. Hating always struck me as far too labor-intensive, requiring the Hater to devise some convoluted rationale and then spend every waking and sleeping hour feeding it, elaborating upon it, obsessing over it. The stockpiling of weapons? The warehousing of anger? The elaborately penned screeds to justify its atrocities?
Hate ISN’T easy.
And love isn’t necessarily the refusal to hate, either. Love is more than the binary opposite of loathing. It’s something else. It’s a mindful open state that requires an act of surrender. It’s unlocking a window and throwing up the sash, and then, in microseconds that can amass into years, a determination to stand there and feel the warmth or the chill, hear the birds or the traffic, see the sun or the stars. Nothing is simpler than this blessed acquiescence to the beauties of life.
For proof, just watch this video of my batshit cat during a recent heat wave. Does this look difficult to you? Does he look oppressed? Okay, so I’m inserting a cat video into my blog post for no other reason than I WANT TO INSERT A CAT VIDEO INTO MY BLOG POST, and if you don’t feel like watching it, your loss. I won’t judge you if just skip below to continue with my aimless philosophical cud-chewing.
Anyway, thinking back on the Philosophy of the Bumper: I decided it was only half-wrong. Yes, love is an act of surrender. Yes, love is an opening to the world. But that act of surrender indeed takes courage, and that opening to the world takes strength. It takes a willingness to be pierced and affected. A willingness to accept, and be accepted, and to work. A rejection of passivity and an active commitment, a fixedness, a constancy, that can look like foolishness but feel like the holiest of missions.
Those who refuse to open themselves and those who shut the window at the first blast of bad weather are shorting themselves, maybe even “protecting” themselves. But they are not taking the easy road. They’re taking the hard one.
Love may take courage, but it’s easy. Any questions about this? Ask my cat.