A Plea for Hatred by Hank Malinowski
I have reached that peculiar age when one knows that the bottle is definitely less than half full--no matter how you look at it. This sobering fact has made me begin to think of those who have helped me get as far as I have gotten--which is to say, who have helped me reach a modestly content middle age. (Actually, no mean accomplishment if one glances around.) Right up there near the top of my list of heroes is my Uncle Max. He is the closest I have come across to the Wise Old Man in the flesh. As a tribute to him I have begun casting my memory back to our meetings and "re-creating" them--a silly effort doomed to be of primary interest only to myself. But perhaps you will be stimulated by this account of what he said to me the time I came to him--all bright eyed and bushy tailed--with the news that I was applying to enter the Peace Corps. It was perhaps the only time he got really mad at me.
Uncle Max: Why?
Me: Why? Because I want to save the world, of course!!!
Save the world, you say. Can you hear yourself talking? Can you hear the arrogance lurking there? Don't look so startled. Try to listen to me. This is important. Maybe the most important thing I'll get to say to you.
Do not try to be good.
That's what it boils down to: Do not try to be good. You see, friend, the second we try to be "good" a whole slippery can of fish gets opened up. A regular Pandora's Box--if you'll forgive me mixing my metaphors. Very simply, the second you set out to do "good" you are saying first of all that you are "good" yourself and for that to happen the other has to be "bad." If you look around you, the world has suffered a lot at the hands of those setting out to "do good," setting out to "save others."
You have the straights trying to save the gays for their own good, the Arabs killing the Israelis (and vice versa) all in the name of the good God, the educated or the enlightened or the pure all out to redeem the uneducated or the unenlightened or the impure. And so it goes on and on and so the pages of history are bloodied by the deeds of all these good people.
When we set out to do "good" to others most of the time we are trying to make ourselves comfortable. We are trying to fix the world because we can't face how unfixed we are ourselves, our striving for perfection is an evasion of the truth of our imperfection.
Let me make a plea to you, friend, for hatred. And not just for hatred--for lust, and jealousy, and aggression, and envy, for all the sins you can think of. What I want you to do is get off your high horse and get down here with the rest of us, with us poor old human beings all of whom just never seem to get it "good." Let go of this image or this yearning you have to be a Joan of Arc. Realize that you are full of contradictions, confusions, and chaos. When you begin to touch all that stuff in yourself know then that you are touching all that stuff in all of us. We are all a "mess." Funny thing is that once we accept that we are all messed up something begins to happen. You begin to feel less righteous, less lonely. You don't have to fix anything as much as to begin to embrace these facts in yourself and in others. It is an embrace that softens expectations, that gives room for growth, which maybe just has something to do with what real compassion is--suffering together.
And, you know, when we suffer together the suffering ain't that bad. We're all in the same boat and maybe we can be a bit gentler, a bit kinder, to our fellow passengers on this crazy journey we're all making together.
Hank Malinowski is an American living in the Hague with his Dutch lover Frits.