On the Pleasure of Hating

by Rick Jelliffe

By popular demand I am reposting this entry. It disappeared mysteriously—Kurt Cagle cruelly suggested it could be something to do with my incompetence, which has the ring of truth unfortunately— so our apologies to readers.

Here is a great quote from William Hazlett's essay On the Pleasure of Hating, for a change in pace:
The pleasure of hating, like a poisonous mineral, eats into the heart of religion, and turns it to rankling spleen and bigotry; it makes patriotism an excuse for carrying fire, pestilence, and famine into other lands: it leaves to virtue nothing but the spirit of censoriousness, and a narrow, jealous, inquisitorial watchfulness over the actions and motives of others. What have the different sects, creeds, doctrines in religion been but so many pretexts set up for men to wrangle, to quarrel, to tear one another in pieces about , like a target as a mark to shoot at? Does any one suppose that the love of country in an Englishman implies any friendly feeling or disposition to serve another bearing the same name? No, it means only hatred to the French or the inhabitants of any other country that we happen to be at war with for the time. Does the love of virtue denote any wish to discover or amend our own faults? No, but it atones for an obstinate adherence to our own vices by the most virulent intolerance to human frailties. This principle is of a most universal application. It extends to good as well as evil: if it makes us hate folly, it makes us no less dissatisfied with distinguished merit. If it inclines us to resent the wrongs of others, it impels us to be as impatient of their prosperity. We revenge injuries: we repay benefits with ingratitude. Even our strongest partialities and likings soon take this turn. "That which was luscious as locusts, anon becomes bitter as coloquintida;" and love and friendship melt in their own fires. We hate old friends: we hate old books: we hate old opinions; and at last we come to hate ourselves.


2008-05-29 10:17:04
Hmm.. for once I'm not sure how to respond to the text, so I rely on my training.

Zen and Methodism both teach that to be fully realized in the first or full with God in the second, one must first be 'empty of me'. Pleasure tends to make one full of self and so the various practices for distinguishing the good from the bad will simply take one down the same path to hate. To be 'not this' seems so contrary to what we understand but it is complete understanding.

To be free of purpose, the circle enscribes and remains empty. It is a difficult practice to master by human will so the enlightened merely count breath until calm and trust God's will.

Rick Jelliffe
2008-05-29 10:56:59
Len: Hazlitt is certainly not Zen and his last line of course recalling 1 Jn 2:15 (Love not the world.) But after identifying some loves as actually hates, and some hates as actually loves, he ends with an ironical flourish: is his wish to have hated the world more a wish for more of the pleasure of hating/loving or for the reduction in disenchantment as the hate/love proves illusory?
2008-05-29 12:34:49
Good question, Rick. I didn't mean to suggest he is Zen, just that I find the same concept of 'emptiness' as a state of grace in Methodism and of course, as a state of meditation in Zen. To me, they are the same idea. I have a friend who gets very unhappy with me if I make such suggestions because he believes the Holy Spirit has no truck with Hindu or Buddhism. The Christ is the only way for him. I don't accept that. It feels too much like yet another trap of self-importance.

In either case, if I understand him and I haven't read the piece, Hazlitt is asking for more power for self be it more pleasure or less enchantment. He cannot free himself of the illusion of self. It seems to be yet another Chinese finger puzzle. The empty circle is all there is of self.

When empty, the self does not force so the love that fills is real and the disenchantment is illusory. Like a dream, don't bother to grasp it. Feel it. One moment or an eternity will make no difference.