By Margaret Lucke
Is love stronger than hate? I think that's not quite the right question. According to philosophers who are far wiser than I am, the two greatest forces in the universe are not love and hate, but love and fear. Love is stronger and has more power. But fear, love's opposite and enemy, is more cunning and seductive. It hides itself behind clever disguises -- hatred, yes, and also bigotry, caution, arrogance, perfectionism, and procrastination, to name a few. Some of its forms are obviously bad, while others might seem innocuous and even beneficial. But when you rip away the mask, most often you'll always find fear lurking underneath.
One evening last week, I attended a house concert at Strings in Oakland. While waiting for the musical entertainment to begin, I was mulling the question of which is stronger, love or hate or fear, knowing that this theme was coming up on The LadyKillers. Then our host, Joey Lent, and his guitar took the stage to open the show. What he sang blew me away. As if he'd read my mind, he'd chosen a song that captured my thoughts.
Some say that I'm the Devil -- but FEAR is my name.
"Fear Is My Name" was written by Donna and Kelly Mulhollan, an acclaimed Arkansas-based singing and songwriting duo who perform at festivals around the country under the name Still on the Hill. Their music combines elements of folk, bluegrass, and classic, and they are well known for their work to preserve the cultural traditions of the Ozarks.
Most of us experience fear in one form or another. That is not surprising. There is so much that we don't know, that we don't understand, that we're not familiar with. And for many people, what is strange is also frightening.
I've made you think your neighbor has become the enemy …
till the color of his skin is now the only thing you see!
The song points out the ways that fear tries to control us -- and the ways that those who hold positions of power encourage and exploit our fears in order to maintain their hold. (For examples of how this works, just look at the rhetoric of the current presidential campaign.)
I danced on your altars, made you tremble with fear.
You'll always do my bidding when I whisper in your ear!
It can be surprising to realize how much of what we encounter in the media or observe in other people's attitudes and behaviors has fear at its heart. We might find it even more disconcerting to discover, once we look closely, that fear forms the basis and justification for many of our own decisions. But as the song reminds us, we have it within our power to overcome fear. How do we do that? By choosing love instead.
You can slice right thru me with the feather of a dove
'cause my greatest enemy -- is LOVE.
Many thanks to Kelly and Donna Mulhollan for permission to quote their lyrics here.