Quote for the Day

I used to think that paired opposites were a given, that love was the opposite of hate, right the opposite of wrong. But now I think we sometimes buy into these concepts because it is so much easier to embrace absolutes than to suffer reality. I don’t think anything is the opposite of love. Reality is unforgivingly complex.

— Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Quote for the Day
"Life is Change... How it Differs From the Rocks"
Quote for the Day
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • judith quinton

    With all due respect to Ms. Lamott, I couldn’t disagree more!
    Great writer.
    Not-so great theologian.
    In my humble opinion…

  • http://heartofflame.blogspot.com Yewtree

    I like this quote. I think reality is more complex than a series of paired opposites, and it’s good to see a Christian writer acknowledge this (I hadn’t heard of her before, but I googled).

    In reality, I think love and hate have nothing to do with each other. We think of them as opposites, but that would make them connected, or mirror images of each other, which seems wrong.

    The dualist view of reality is particularly worrying when all the halves of each pair get conflated with each other (e.g. darkness = evil = left = female, and so on).

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    Do get to know Anne Lamott. As a writer, you’ll probably enjoy Bird by Bird, which is by turns hilarious, thoughtful, and gently encouraging. I like all her non-fiction, but Traveling Mercies is the book that put her on the map. Definitely the kind of Christian that a Paganish Unitarian would enjoy chatting up!

  • Ron

    Insightful thought. But, probably, only in the higher level of reality.

    Ordinarily, life is still and should be a dichotomy. No one should simply ignore the evil of killing a father of a family just for kinks without feeling remorseful, or recording the raping infants for the sake of money. Humanity should still stress the opposite of evil.

    Too much idealism glorifies the “dogma” of unity without necessary enlightened dichotomy.

  • Infinite Warrior

    Perhaps love, in the Christian parlance, is often confused with the human emotion when what it indicates is compassion, which Merton defines as “a keen awareness of the (interconnectedness) and interdependence of all living beings”.

    Someone once said “the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference” and I remember thinking briefly that indifference would be more accurately the opposite of both love and hate, but that is true only of the dynamic human emotions.

    Women are socially conditioned to be more emotionally expressive than men, so keeping these kinds of distinctions in mind has proved the greatest source of my own spiritual struggles over the years. Reductionists, of course, would have us believe all forms of love are merely and always the result of a rush of oxytocin, but that is obviously necessary only for one specific kind.

    The true meaning and ramifications of love may become more clear for us in the West when the adjective “divine” is attached to it. Emotional love is apparently never truly unconditional, so we might take a most helpful cue from Buddhism on this score.

    Emotions are generally regarded in the mind of the Buddhist as aspects of our personality that interfere with the development of a spiritual life, as unwholesome states ethically undesirable, and roadblocks to be cleared in the battleground between reason and emotion. In keeping with this perspective, emotions are described as states of “agitation” or “imbalance.” ~ The Psychology of Emotions in Buddhist Perspective

    I’ve experienced both of those last in abundance the past few years … especially when dealing with reductionists. :) I thought it might be helpful for others to contemplate.

  • judith quinton

    Truly no offense, my friend, Infinite Warrior.
    But based on that last quote…I could truly not be a Buddhist…though I can and do glean truths from Buddhism.
    I embrace, ride with, and love my emotions.
    It is one of the best things about Judith Quinton.
    A spiritual walk that denied my emotions would not only chafe, but diminish my personality.
    For others…perhaps.
    Not a walk for me.
    Love to all,

  • Infinite Warrior

    Kindly don’t misunderstand, judith. It’s not about denying our emotions, but mastering and directing them creatively.

  • judith quinton

    Thank you, friend.
    Would like more clarification.
    Can you please direct me via link, etc. to a source I can access to read fuller development of this concept from Buddhist point of view.

  • Infinite Warrior

    This article is, perhaps, a better introduction to Buddhist thought on the subject of emotional interference in living the spiritual life to its fullest potential, but the benefits of such a mastery of emotion is, I think, beautifully summed up in the Karaniya Metta Sutta.

    This does, of course, have its equivalent in Christian teachings of a selflessness which allows a free and unobstructed flowing out of divine love and goodwill.

  • judith quinton

    Thank you, friend.
    Appreciate you.

  • http://acatholicwomansplace.blogspot.com claire

    Thank you. It feels right :-)

  • Cindy

    For a few years now, I’ve been exploring the idea that power is more aptly seen as the opposite of love. Not hate so much.

    Power, as in hierarchical power over another, subjugation, overpowering, etc seem much more the types of behaviors and actions (if not feelings) that crowd out love.

    I see it in myself – when I want to have power over someone (usually because I am afraid of them for some reason) then I cannot bring myself to also love them.

    When I bring in love for the person, even if I’m afraid, I cannot act in ways that serve only power.

    I don’t think – based on her writing – that Anne Lamott would entirely disagree with me. :) I really, really, really like her books!

  • http://nitecaravan.blogspot.com/ Green Monk

    How true this quote is!!!!

  • Gary Snead

    A comment on the last part of the quote first. Truly reality is complex, as evidenced in part by the real complex characteristics of the above comments. But the best way to live in reality is by embodying the simplicity of divine love. That is if I have distilled, yes reduced, the fairly clear, reasonably common conceptual thread from the collection of statements shared above.
    Now for the first point: Empiric observation of physical phenomena; Thoughtful analysis of emotional/relational activities; Contemplation of insights gained in meditation; all could yield examples of opposites, complementary sets, presence/absence dichotomies. Yewtree, you’re right, we tend to conflate all such pairs into simple nonsense.
    A gentle aside to Infinite Warrior, how non-dualistic are any of us if a subset of people such as reductionists are negatively separated from us? I do appreciate the insights on Buddhist thought, particularly about mastering and directing our emotions and reason rather than eliminating them.
    Finally, here is a musing about power and love. The literary mythic picture that came to mind while reading Cindy was “1,001 Arabian Nights”. A woman uses the power of the man’s love, perhaps initially lust, to weave a great tale and in so doing, creates the atmosphere for a balanced, deep, strong, loving relationship with him.
    Rest in the peace of divine love. I’ll leave my disagreement about the unforgiving character of complexity and/or reality for another time.

  • Infinite Warrior

    I have distilled, yes reduced….

    I don’t see that you have “reduced”, but only distilled. (Distillation and reduction are not one and the same. )

    This is a distinction I’ve drawn several times the past year or so to illustrate the difference between distilling the essential meaning of a “sacred” text from its context to find, share and mutually understand the truth within it that is common to all and the reduction of wholes to their constituent parts (or the sum of their constituent parts) for the sheer sake of it, which can only result in the very all-pervasive automation, fragmentation, fusion and homogenization we are witnessing today and which was clearly foreseen before every episode of collapse in human history by “prophets” ranging from Daniel to Jesus to Jean Gebser and William Butler Yeats.

    “Sacred” and “prophets” are in quotation marks here because it’s not just religious texts (and contexts) that become “sacred” in the sense of “unquestionable”. In fact, in our times, everything from Islamism to Christianism to Darwinism to Atheism to Liberalism, Conservatism, Socialism and Environmentalism, ad infinitum have become “sacred” to a large degree and an awful lot of people seem to feel that these very human ideologies are absolutely unquestionable.

    how non-dualistic are any of us if a subset of people such as reductionists are negatively separated from us?

    Well, I was half-joking there, but ’tis true that I’ve allowed reductionism to upset me no end the past few years. As a result, I’ve had to struggle deeply to relocate my own center of balance and peace, so I certainly can’t recommend trying to engage a determined reductionist in dialogue and appreciate a quote such as the one posted here immensely.

    The “our way is the only way” crowds are enough to drive anyone nuts and it is my personal opinion that adherents of any ideology prefixed with “neo-” may be either knowingly or unknowingly reductionist. “Neo-”, of course, is supposed to mean “new” and does in the case of those elements of various traditions that are seeking to understand and cooperate with one another, but what it more often means to me these days is “extremist”.

    A lot of online folk seem to think I’m a reductionist myself, but I no longer concern myself with whether anyone does or not because there is, frankly, far too much at stake to care. Please allow me to explain….

    The all-pervasive dualism and fragmentation we are witnessing today and which we are all struggling to overcome whether we realize it or not is, I feel, the direct result of the reductionistic principles that accompanied the Enlightenment and that I suspect have underscored the entirety of human history. As I’ve also argued in the past, however, it’s not people (or subsets of people) that I feel nations, communities and groups ever should have been or be “against”, though I’ve yet to locate anyone who agrees with me on this point. The reason I feel so, however, is that such is the very basis of warfare. Rather than being against people, I feel that it is this all-pervasive, shared strain of ideology and its resultant action of reductionism that is tearing apart the very fabric of our shared existence from the international to the national to the societal straight through to the family and even the individual mind (and/or vice versa).

    Even here, I personally don’t believe we should consider ourselves against so much as we merely require — as a species — to recognize it as something that desperately needs to be acknowledged and transformed. Thing is, this strain of reductionistic thinking is so ingrained in our collective psyche (for want of a better term), there is no reasoning with anyone who holds purely reductionistic views and the evidence of this is absolutely everywhere. I personally feel that the number of leaders of reductionistic movements determined to wield “power over” others is steadily waning, but have been cautioned in the past that our collective passage through the never-ending crises we have created for ourselves will take several generations.

    the unforgiving character of complexity and/or reality

    As I’ve also been made aware in the past, there are those who believe the universe is inherently hostile, though I currently feel they may be confusing the natural laws that govern the universe with the universe itself. As Oren Lyons put it, “the natural law knows no mercy; it is only the law” and if we think Nature hostile, I’m inclined to believe it’s because humankind, having come to view ourselves as separate from Nature, have convinced ourselves in large part that we can challenge and/or subdue natural law for our own ends when we most certainly cannot.


  • Gary Snead

    Thank you, Infinite Warrior. I appreciate being understood to be distilling, not reducing. You are right, I played a bit light on words that have deep meaning in chemistry as well as philosophy. I am surprised at the volume of response but find encouragement, new comprehension, seeds of future conversations, joy in your self-revelations, in all of it.
    (deep sigh of relaxation in the fresh air of a growing friendship)

  • judith quinton

    Just sayin’…
    Both of you ROCK, my bros!
    Infinite Warrior and Gary!
    Right on…keepin on…lovin on!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    I’m sorry that my schedule barely permits me to do more than glance at all the wonderful comments that are being posted here. I feel like I’m the host of a wonderful party with some really interesting guests. I simply cannot participate in every thread of the discourse, much as I would like to. But I’m taking great joy in knowing that all these fascinating conversations are going on, “under my roof” as it were.

    Thank you all.

  • judith quinton

    Love you, Carl.
    And thanks for being the hostest with the mostest!
    At least on the theological circuit!