I once wrote that we have a well of affection inside us that needs to be channelled. If noone takes it, we start feeding cats. But that was incomplete. We also have a well of hostility. Our inconsistencies are borne out of the co-existence of these emotions. And we can feel both affection and hostility towards the same person. Before I thought if someone treated me mean, it canceled out all their kindness up to that point. If they were able to treat me mean, all their good deeds lacked truth, genuinity. I thought they hated me all along, and they were just good at hiding their real feelings towards me. I was so stupid for not having seen it earlier.
Meanwhile, I felt so guilty if I felt something I shouldn’t have felt towards someone. I questioned the purity of my motives constantly: Am I being helpful and nice for the sake of being helpful and nice, for the sake of this person, or my own sake? Am I writing this to show off my liberal, inquisitive, reflective mind, or am I writing it to get my point across? Is my need to help someone or write something genuine, or is it merely a manifestation of my need for self-gratification?
Now I think differently. Kindness and hostility can both be genuine. When we help someone, it can be part kindness and part self-gratification. Admiration and envy mixes together. Mothers can feel hostile to their children from time to time, children can contempt their parents. We have all kinds of heresies within us, they just wait to rise to the surface like the bubbles in a boiling kettle. Sometimes our hostility towards someone runs through words and glances like a colored liquid passing through tiny veins. They seem random and innocent, but they are not. They are poisoned. Those words taste bitter, they look green.
Sometimes the guilt we feel about our impure motivations, our insecurities distort our perception, blur our judgment. At times like those it is we who poison others' words and actions, not they. It's our conscience speaking, not them. We poison ourselves with imagined insults.
But with intelligence and maturity, we can learn to keep the lid on our emotions. It means that we care enough about someone to protect them from our own hostility. It means that we know someone well enough to trust their kindness towards us. Mothers care enough about their children, children care enough about their parents. Friends care enough about each other. I no longer accuse people just because they feel hostile towards me, but I accuse them because they didn’t try hard enough to contain it. I no longer feel guilty for my impure emotions and motives, but I feel guilty (and stupid) when I let them seep through my words, deeds and perception.
Finally, we can choose to be someone better. There is nothing wrong with liking the idea of being an open-minded, liberal person, and acting like one. There’s nothing wrong with liking the idea of being a couragous person, there is nothing bad with liking the idea of being a nice person. There is nothing wrong with performing these qualities consciously and actively. Unless, of course, we are delusional about who we are, and we should be attentive to this possibility.
After all, even the fact that we like the idea of being a helpful person, as opposed to the idea of being a selfish person, shows something about the kind of person we are.
ps. I told you I’m an extraordinary machine.