The Little Toil of Love


I had no time to Hate—
The Grave would hinder Me—
And Life was not so
Ample I
Could finish—Enmity—

Emily Dickinson

The human mind is capable of generating rational thoughts, but thinking is not a rational process. Our thoughts are the fruit of our emotions. The poet Theodore Roethke points out

We Think by Feeling

Our perceptions are limited and transcendence is an illusion. Wallace Stevens reminds us

Your world is you. I am my world

It’s not my task in life to figure out who the good people are
. There are people that I admire; there are people that I enjoy being around; there are people who annoy me; there are people that I don’t enjoy being around. But people are not what I think about them. And whatever fraction of my life I spend evaluating the overall worth of particular human beings is a waste of my precious time on earth. Life is not a contest, and even if it were, no one appointed me judge.

We see others through the prism of how we wish to perceive ourselves. W.H. Auden explains

A friend is the old, old tale of Narcissus.

It is easier to feel compassion for others when I am feeling good about myself. And forgiving myself for my imperfections makes it easier to accept the imperfections of others.

My cruel and petty and spiteful impulses are the excrescence of my inadequacies. I cannot make these impulses go away. But I can endeavor to check myself whenever I fantasize about seeing bad things happen to other people. It’s a perpetual struggle.

by Richard W. Bray

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