The culture of the desert is perhaps the best allegory for the conditions that may ultimately lead to the development of a culture of hatred in human society. The ego operates in two modes:
* Expressing free will (with all its variants);
* Realizing (implementing) free will.
Among others, emotions are an expression of free will. Having the potential to control our emotions by struggling with them and possibly modify them, emotions are part and parcel of the repository of modes by which free will expresses itself. Two potentially devastating expressions of free will are hatred and anger.
Where do they originate?
Anger has been the subject of much discourse in Jewish and non-Jewish scholarship (within science or otherwise), and it seems to be generally accepted that anger is the ego’s major response to blocking/ignoring free will in its two modes of operandi:
- When the ego is obstructed in expressing its free will, either by threat of severe penalty or by rejection by fellow human beings. Typical examples are when the ego believes certain knowledge about reality to be true and significant others reject it as false; or when one’s ego, with all varieties of its expressions, is ignored (by display of indifference);
- When the ego is obstructed in accomplishing its free will, for example, when a certain repair is required (within ourselves or outwardly) and the ego is incapable of accomplishing this repair (Tikun in Hebrew).
Controlling pride is conducive to controlling anger.
Where does hatred originate?
While hatred obviously may be associated with anger, or follow anger, it is a distinct and separate emotion that may express itself detached from any feeling of anger. To understand hatred, I believe that one needs go no farther than understanding the fundamental meaning of “Desert” as epitome for separation (lack of communication) and the resultant hatred.
Why is “Desert” the epitome for a potential culture of hatred?
Living in “Desert” implies living in separate communities, extremely isolated from one another due to harsh nature conditions. In such circumstances, daily communication between communities is rare and hard to come by. This generates a separation between “Us” and “Them”, between “Us” and “Not us” fellow human beings affiliated to “Not us” communities. In an environment of extreme isolation between communities, a sense of suspicion towards the “others”, the “Not us”, is rampant. Lack of daily communication between isolated communities tends to form a natural sense of suspicion and distrust between “Us” and “Them”, a remnant of which we may still see nowadays in the common gesture of hugging each other upon meeting. This gesture, already referred to in Genesis (29:13), originally expressed a fundamental sense of distrust where the hug aimed at finding out whether the seemingly amiable person, who has just arrived to the “Us community”, carried a hidden sword at his back. The hug thus became a sort of ancient extreme vetting, to borrow a modern-day term.
In such an environment of isolation and hostile nature conditions, where lack of daily communication between isolated communities tends to create a culture of suspicion and distrust towards the “Not us”, the path is short to a potential culture of hatred. The ego’s path to acknowledging, being aware of, respecting and accommodating free-wills of “Not us”, this path is blocked. Lack of daily communication may ultimately lead to unrestrained hatred towards the “Other”, embedded in a potential culture of hatred.
The Hebrew language fully support this interpretation for the source of hatred:
- Mount Sinai, where Torah was given to the ancient Israelites, has in Hebrew a connotation of hatred (Sinah in Hebrew). This triggered the following assertion by a Jewish rabbi: “Why Mount Sinai? that this is where hatred descended (unto the world)” (Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Shabbat, Ch. 9).
- Probably not coincidentally, Hebrew for “Other” (Acher) and “Back” (Achor), share the same root in Hebrew. Since Achor is that part of the body that one can see only when the face cannot be seen, the Hebrew language links “back” to “other” and denotes the latter— Acher, namely, the one whose “face” (Panim, written like Pnim, “inside”) cannot be accessed (probably due to lack of communication).
In recent years, communication between human beings, unhindered by “Desert” conditions, has become a major platform for reducing hatred worldwide. One can now more fully appreciate the major shift taking place in human history with the advent of modern day easily accessible personal communication. This development has served to attain a major objective in the evolution of the human species on Earth: Reducing hatred originating in “Desert” due to lack of communication, and allowing fellow human beings accessing each other and consequently acknowledging each other’s own free wills.
Does living in “Desert”, in separation between “we” and “them”, necessarily lead to cultures of hatred, such as currently witnessed in various parts of the world where communities do actually dwell in desert?
Not necessarily. Observe what Rabbi Akiva (50-132) considered as the departure point for studying the whole of Torah: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”, this is the essence of Torah; all else is interpretation”. This culture of love combined with justice and righteousness had originally formed, contrary to human nature, in “Desert” conditions, literally in the desert, in the Sinai desert.
A major and important lesson may be learned:
Communities separated by “Desert” are not doomed to live in a culture of hatred. With today’s available communication, overcoming a culture of hatred and modifying it in a fundamental way is a relatively easily accessible option. Carriers of cultures of hatred, leaders of cultures of hatred, only need to summon up their free will to apply the much-needed transformation so that “Desert”, as a way of living, may once and for all be eradicated from the face of the earth.
*Shorty is a short post