UNITED STATES—Radical love is to let play out the intention that a kind impulse dwells in others as it does in oneself. Goethe said something to the effect that if you treat people as if they displayed good qualities, they will actually start to display them.
Radical love exalts kindness beyond one’s own skin and the empathetic view of being in another’s shoes. Treat them as you would be treated, as well as from remembrance of how it felt to be treated in a way that rankled. And in the case of stupid or inexplicable behavior, be very slow to apply the word stupid or what a cretin. There are people who so liberally apply the labels of moron and idiot, and it degrades one to hear it, and it degrades humanity. And people put so much energy into reiterating their stereotypes of thoughtless behavior.
We so often detect selfishness and greed where the perceived selfishness is motivated by putting others first. Jack London put it so well, he describes the man who steals a prize dog to get some extra scratch; he sounds like a real thug, but later in “Call of the Wild,” London describes him, “The wages of a gardener’s helper do not lap over the needs of a wife and divers small copies of himself.”
Radical love is quick to create extenuating circumstances. There are reasons why some things bother us, but it is just the surface that irritates. It’s not a bad way to live.
A good example of radical love may be someone who works at a café surfing the holidays, and they do it gladly because they are serving the people who may need some Joe on a holiday morning; they do it because they will see their family and live 10 minutes from work, and further they will give a co-worker the chance to be at home with friends and family.
I have gone through a time of soul searching and having to fight the urge to not carry through with good actions I believe in. Aggressive actions have been demanded of me, and it goes against my nature. But nature is not “nature,” you see. After trying on toughness and seeing this virtually uncork a volcano, a perceptive friend has realized that my agreeable nature comes from dealing with many moons of temper and upset, I have learned to let things pass.
The other night in a checkout line, there was somebody with a grocery cart, a case of wine and feta cheese and containers of tabouli. There was nobody to go with the cart, then after about two minutes a near-sighted young woman said, “You know we’re in line.” I really thought this was the time to be bad and aggressive (Jeez, even as I type this out the people in the BH library will probably want to shush me, I’m tapping them so hard.) Look, that comment was uncalled for; it was a given that who ever had that darn cart full of Charles Shaw would have first dibs with the cashier; not me and my single bag of sunflower seed. But, she had to say something.
A day later I thought up the aggressive response: “I was here first, you’re behind me.” Initially, after I let them go first, I thought, I’ll give them the chance to let me go first. That’s radical love: giving people the chance to do their own good deeds.
Well, it didn’t work that way. I have had some final reflection on the matter. I wish more people wore hats. I’d be inclined to knock a hat off somebody’s head, now and then. The world might be a better place. Here’s to civilized aggression…
I had a moment which made the past sickeningly present when a repeated comment, that I have historically given enormous berth, triggered me to hurl an orange to the floor. That poor orange didn’t do anything to me, but my ear did, listening again to that comment about remembering to close drawers. I snapped as I haven’t in many moons.
Thank heaven my loved one wasn’t fazed in the least, but the dog yes. The dog looked at me with fearful eyes and retreated to the porch. And it’s naked, all over to me why I choose the path of agreeableness.
Graydon Miller is the Wizard of Fiction.