Howard Gardner (5 Minds for the Future) on the Respectful Mind…
We homo sapiens must somehow learn how to inhabit neighboring places — and the same planet — without hating one another, without lusting to injure or kill one another, without acting on xenophobic inclinations even if our own group might emerge triumphant in the short turn. Often the desideratum tolerance is invoked, and it may be the case that it is all that we can aspire to. Wordsmiths of a more optimistic temperament opt for romantic language; on the eve of World War II, poet W.H. Auden declared, “We must love one another or die.”
Gardner sets this up as mere pretty words. Indeed he continues in the next paragraph to accept neither love nor hate.
I prefer the concept of respect. Rather than ignoring differences being inflamed by them, or seeking to annihilate them through love or hate. I call on human beings to accept the differences, learn to live with them, and value those who belong to other cohorts.
After this dismissal, I needed to see for myself just what the poet was advancing. That bit from Auden is the last line of the penultimate stanza of September 1, 1939 which ends with this stanza:
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
Composed: both made up and serene. The key is in the affirmative irony. Although Gardner poses Auden’s adage as if it were a completely isolated sentence, we can construe a less than monological meaning upon reviewing its context. It’s part of a series that actually endorses Gardner’s beyond-the-cohort view:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
That “we” becomes more complex in context. We, both citizen and police, are not alone. And hunger impels the choice. Or rather negates the choice. We die. But how we die depends upon how we love.
And so for day 2079