Love and Hate

“Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris?

Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.”

(I hate and I love. And if you ask me how, I do not know: I only feel it and I’m torn in two. Penguin Classics translation)

These are the words of Roman poet Catullus (c84-54 BC).

I first read this epigram when I was 14 and frankly at the time I didn’t have a clue what the poor sap meant. Surely love and hate are polar opposites, and it is impossible to feel both at the same time?

It wasn’t many years before I began to get the guy’s drift.

You see, love and hate are two sides to the same coin, if you like. The opposite of love is not hate but indiference. You know how you feel when someone treats you badly, that passionate flaring of pain and atavistic desire to get even, to right the wrongs and make them hurt? That’s Hate, ugly stepsister of Love. They’re closely related, because they both demand passion.

Indifference is the lukewarm emotion when you’re not even terribly interested what happens to the former recipient of your affections after you go your separate ways.

I’d rather be hated than have someone not care much one way or another. At least hate proves you are alive and capable of fire. If you can hate, then you can love. While your emotions are neither one nor the other, you’re in a No-man’s-land and living a half life. It may hurt less, but that’s because you feel nothing much at all.

The gold standard is to love and be loved, even if it’s just your cat…


2 thoughts on “Love and Hate

    • Catullus was certainly a great if troubled mind. Most of his poems are so filthy I spent every lecture blushing like a tomato, though. Reminds me very much of Rochester, who I studied at the same time. Live fast, party hard, die young.

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