“The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. And the opposite of happiness isn’t necessarily sadness, it’s disconnection.” – Rachel Maddow
The absence of emotion is indifference, is disconnection. And both love and happiness represent iterations of emotion. So indifference and disconnection may be seen as the absence of love or happiness. But the diametric opposite of love is still hate, and the diametric opposite of happiness is still sadness.
BUT: I get the spirit of what she’s saying, which is that a more nuanced way of looking at what we’re missing isn’t to live in a trap of opposites, but to function in a realm of relationships. Opposition is less about where we stand, and more about the simultaneous occurrence of where we stand given where others stand. Consider how often our two-party system forces us to choose sides, to choose in opposition, to choose falsely. Consider the inherent tension between opposition and collaboration. Relation allows for nuance. It is first and foremost where we stand – who we are and what we truly believe – and second where others stand. It demands authenticity, but also reveals that any position is both the presence of something and the absence of another. Any position is incomplete. So consider the inherent symbiosis between relation and collaboration.
Which is such a profound lesson for politics: Instead of framing our political identities as either identical or opposite, how might we first explore where we situate as a presence of something and an absence of another? How might we reflect what’s present or absent in our position to facilitate ongoing negotiation between people and among ideas?
Let’s cultivate a palate for dialogue and not just debate.