I hope you’re doing well. I had a favor to ask of you. Remember almost two decades ago when we were in the debate club? Your team and my team had to debate whether love or hate were more powerful. You argued the side of love being more powerful than hate. My team never stood a chance. Which brings me back to the favor I’m asking: could you do the same thing again? Argue that love is more powerful than hate? Even if you don’t believe it and have to bullshit. I frankly don’t care. Living in the US right now, I’m having a hard time believing it myself sometimes. Even with all the protesting, calling of representatives, etc. it can all feel a little hopeless at times and it sometimes feels like hate and fear have won. So I really could use a reminder that this is not true. I know you’re busy, so I understand if this is something you can’t do at the moment. But if you are able to find the time, it will be greatly appreciated! I hope that you are doing well.
All the best,
I remember it exactly. A younger and more brash version of myself delivering flowery oratory. We’re both older and the stakes are higher now, but I will try to make the case again.
It is in times such as this that we are offered the real chance to test and prove the strength of love. We have been raised to believe that things will always get better — sometimes faster, sometimes slower — no matter what we do. The dark days of the Shoah were behind us; prosperity increased for all; we would never make such mistakes again. How can we live, if it turns out we were wrong?
Whether the motion of the world is toward perfect bliss is not for us to debate. We have always known that we would die, and that someday the universe would die. Times of plenty and progress are followed by war & dissolution. We never seem to learn from the past. Why, then, do we persist? What does love mean, if all must end some day? How can we prove its power?
If there is an answer, it is that we can only prove love’s power when external conditions test it. It’s easy to love in good times. It’s easy to love when it asks little of us. Meanwhile we see that hatred has every possible structural advantage. It blights lives, it destroys worlds. It consumes and it poisons. It ruins trust and sets us against one another. Its momentum seems impossible to reckon with.
And yet our people — this fragile human race — have always found words to speak of beauty. In the worst times, people save art and books for no other reason than that they are beautiful, that they tell us stories, that they were made by human hands. They save things of beauty for no other reason than that the future has a right to inherit beauty — and that its memory of us will not be wholly evil.
Meanwhile we save each other. Even when it is death to do so. Think of the Righteous Among the Nations. We nurture each other, we seek companionship, we remember better days in the hopes they will come again. We love. It persists, always it persists. We still want to be happy, we want our children to be happy, even in the face of all available evidence that happiness is not our lot. That madness is love — and it has never been extinguished, never once in the whole history of this world.
It may indeed be true that the coming years offer little rational cause for hope. Much may be undone; many beautiful things may pass away. We may be among them — for never forget that you are beautiful, as are we all, inheritors of our shared humanity and the love of all the generations that went before us.
There are no assurances to be made for any one person. But can we seriously doubt that through all this, we will continue to tell one another stories? That acts of kindness and courage will persist? We will be given REAL opportunities to show courage and compassion and love. The urge to nurture and protect will not vanish; it will persist.
The fact I can say this with absolute confidence, even as the historian in me foresees such suffering, is the surest proof of love’s power. I have spent my life in the study of humanity’s failings and I am still moved by beauty; I still worship knowledge and the noble works of human hands.
And so I wish for all of us what I have always wished — long life, untroubled by pain. Good food, companionship, ease and comfort. But if these are not to be ours, I hope we will have the courage to endure discomfort and still do what we can to love, to project knowledge and beauty forward, to shelter and nurture other human beings. I know that some of us will, no matter what happens, unto the very ending of the world — whether it’s ten years from now or ten billion.
That is madness — love is madness. Madness doesn’t play by the rules. Its strength is in transcending structure, in working around it. Hatred is only a structure.
Take heart, my friend.