A few days ago (CBC Radio Metamorphosis) I heard a story of a transformation. Arno Michaels, a former neo-Nazi skin-head, and something of a major figure within the white supremacist clan, said that in order to sustain the motivation for his frequent episodes of violence he needed to constantly feed his hatred. In time, building hatred was too much a burden, and he grew tired.
His transformation wasn’t a road to Damascus experience. Giving up the load of hate along with his beliefs and behaviour came through simple association with moderate people. His revelation was that regular folk, despite our fits of jealousy and petty hatred, are more often than not caring and loving. In keeping company with ordinary people he came to believe that at the core of a person there is compassion. And because belief informs behaviour, his razor-wire wall came down. Arno now spends his time promoting peace, kindness and tolerance.
Well, perhaps ordinary looks saintly from the murky distance of enmity. Then again, maybe it’s true that at the core we are compassionate, and have a profound desire to love and be loved. Maybe my natural inclination is toward you, you toward me.
Maybe if we reached within, used our bodies to feel ourselves into being, we would joy-jump at the dawning revelation that all we want is to be a community of love—a community in love, innately reflecting a transcendent wisdom, a great Sophia.
Maybe Arno Michaels, through the inevitably flawed attempt to arrive at a pure hatred, cut through the weaker layers of envy and resentment, and through an innocent moment of human engagement, discovered, paradoxically, his own natural desire: to be the cause of joy in another. A still latent desire that languishes within us all.