Daily ethics: choose love over hate
“It’s more important to see simplicity, realize your true nature, reject selfishness and harden desire.”
These words are attributed to the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who is believed to have lived about 3,000 years ago, but whose wisdom still resonates with us today. He taught about the Tao, a creative and binding force in the universe.
In the complex, information-rich world we live in, it’s hard to reason. We are overwhelmed with data and opinions on a scale previously unknown. Worse, false information dominates the media until it seems impossible to separate what is true from what is false.
We do not seem to be able to see our true nature, reject selfishness or temple desire, as Lao Tzu recommends. Some admire one interpretation of the world we live in, rejecting everyone else, while others simply become numb, disconnected, and retreat to their private enclaves. Meanwhile, the planet is becoming dangerous to life itself.
Lao Tzu’s wisdom about simplicity made me think about where the world is, how it is, and what is really going on. And I came back to the wise words offered by the British mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell in a 1959 radio interview when asked what message he considered most important to leave for future generations. In less than a few minutes, I believe he just summarized what matters most if we want to survive as a species.
“I would like to say two things: one intellectual and one moral.
“Intellectual, what I would like to tell them is that if you are studying a case or considering a philosophy, ask yourself only what the facts are and what the truth is that the facts confirm. Never allow yourself to be distracted either by what you want to believe or by what you think would have beneficial social effects if you believed in it. But look only at the facts. That’s the intellectual thing I would like to say.
“The moral thing I would like to tell them is very simple: I have to say: love is wise, hatred is stupid. In this world that is becoming more and more closely interconnected, we need to learn to tolerate each other, we need to learn to put up with what some people say that we don’t like. We can only live together in this way – and if we want to live together and not die together, we must learn the mercy and some tolerance that is absolutely necessary for the continuation of human life on this planet. “
His words, “Love is wise, and hatred is foolish,” are those I have remembered for many years and kept close at hand in times like ours, when hatred grows. You don’t need a philosopher to understand what they mean. You know that intellectually and morally Russell is right. And you don’t need a sociologist to see who these days spreads hatred and who love. You know everyone by their words and their actions are equally important. Simply put, love is caring for others as you are for yourself, and hatred is putting yourself first and treating others as unimportant.
There are several significant issues of our kind. Is our essential nature to cooperate with each other or to dominate? Are we consumed only by self-interest or concern for ourselves and others? And do we behave rationally or do we become slaves to our greed and thirst for power?
Q: Whose side are you on: love or hate?
John C. Morgan has taught philosophy for many years at the college level. His column appears weekly on readeagle.com.