Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Opposite of Love

It was near sunset and we were enjoying the marsh side of Edisto State Park.  The old live oaks beckoned us and we could not refuse them.  We left the cabin and walked down the quiet road.  The oaks on either side of the lane had joined their limbs to form a canopy of green leaves and draping Spanish moss.  It was the kind of evening that cradled you.  I wanted to inhale peace.  

I would be lying if I told you it was that simple.  Isaac was quoting Veggie Tales, his ten year old brother was leaping down the road assailing the wind with his best Star Wars battle moves and wielding a fair size limb that he had discovered was a light saber in disguise.  My eight year old daughter was reacting to my ten year old son.  What should have been a peaceful end to the day was spiraling out of all parental control.  I fell back a bit from the group.  It wasn't that hard.  I usually hike at the end of our line anyway to ensure that no children wander off.  I was hoping to take a moment as the children drifted to the front of our line and closer to my husband.  I knew I owed him, but I really had quite enough of the tree saber.  Here, here was a moment.

Not quite.  My teenage daughter let herself drift back to where I was.  She sought me out.  My mama heart knows this is a true honor.  The time will come when I will be stupid and she won't be able to stand my company.  I knew better than to send her away.  I listened to the words that invaded the sunset sky.  She talked about the weekend and her friends and school and so many things.  It was soothing just to hear her speak.  I didn't much care what she chose to talk about.  

She began to practice reciting a poem she was going to present to her English class later in the week. She did a great job stringing the words together.  She remembered all the stanzas.  She had done an excellent job, but I wasn't convinced she knew what she was reciting.

The poem was about the importance of each one of us and of our contributions to the world.  It was important.  I interjected.

"Do you know what your poem is about?"  
"Not really," she admitted.

We talked.  We talked about how the opposite of love is not hate.  Love and hate are more akin than distant.  Both are brought out of intensity and passion.  Both love and hate grab us by the soul and command our thoughts and actions.  The polar opposite of love is apathy.  

She did not know what apathy was.
I explained.

Apathy is not caring.  Apathy is choosing to remove yourself from the conversation.  Apathy says that you are not important enough to matter at all.  Apathy is the opposite of all things passionate.  Apathy is a thief.  It robs others of their power as it robs you of your soul.  Apathy freezes your empathy.  It is a disability of the soul.  

She tried to digest what to her sounded very close to a lecture.  To her credit, she did not shut me out. She merely took a moment to wrap her head around what I had shared.  

I told her the importance of  killing apathy with love.  You have to care.  You have to be involved.   You have to feel if you are to have a soul.  You must choose love even when the apathetic condemn your heart and actions as absurd.  Love is never absurd.  Absurdity is denying those deep parts of ourselves that are meant to connect in community.  Apathy is absurd.   Apathy lies and instructs us to blankly stare past other humans.  It notes their imperfections and scoffs.  Apathy paralyzes our instinct to help and to care.  

Apathy creates zombies and that is not what we are called to be.  We are called to love.  We are called to action.  Apathy can hold a vice like grip but it can do nothing when a person chooses to love, chooses to matter, chooses to live, chooses to interject themselves into the world.  Apathy is blown away by just one voice who rises against it.  Apathy is broken by a knowledge of the strength of our own merit and of the merit of every other person we encounter. 

Here is the poem she had chosen to recite.  It is NOT mine.  The author is unknown.  Apathy would tell you that the poem is sing songy and trite.  Apathy would pray you ignored the message of the stanzas.  But you won't let that happen.  You have chosen to listen. You have chosen to care.  You have chosen to matter. 

"One song can spark a moment.
One flower can wake the dream.
One tree can start a forest.
One bird can herald spring.

One smile begins a friendship.
One handclasp lifts a soul. 
One star can guide a ship at sea.
One word can frame the goal.

One vote can change a nation.
One sunbeam lights a room.
One candle wipes out darkness.  
One laugh will conquer gloom.

One step must start each journey.
One word must start each prayer.
One hope will raise our spirits. 
One touch can show you care.

One voice can speak with wisdom.
One heart can know what's true. 
One life can make a difference. 
You see, it's up to you."

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