The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.
Elie Wiesel made the above statement to US News & World Report in October of 1986. It is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful summations of the human experience that has ever been put into words or written down. So often we think of opposites in terms of motion – that is to say, the opposite of love being hate. Both are active, both imply some form of action by the one feeling them. When you love something or someone, you feel something. When you hate, you are also feeling something.
A quick example, and one that we have all experienced at one time or another, is a break up. When you someone leaves your life romantic or not, you might say you hate them. It might even be true. But hatred burns with the same fire as love, takes the same passion and the same energy. They say that the moment a break up occurs feels the same as a direct hit to your gut. Whether you like it or not, when you are in the various stages of cutting those ties to someone you still feel for them – that feeling has the same intensity as you felt about them before, but now it is focused negatively. You haven’t truly moved past your feeling for someone or something until you reach that point of apathy. In this way, apathy can be a relief, a way to know you are completely past something that has happened in your life. For me, I knew I was past the pain leftover from my swimming career when I was no longer angry at the people who took part in it. For you it may be something different. To embrace the indifference can be cathartic.
What it really comes down to is that sense of apathy. It is the opposite of action, and action is the center of life. If we aren’t doing, then what are we? This is the soul of depression, being indifferent to life or death. If you let that apathy take over your life, if you don’t replace it with something else, you can lose yourself in it. Bad break up? Replace it with something you love. Focus that energy someplace else, don’t lose it entirely. Let it build towards something else. Make it productive.
People ask all the time, what are we doing here, but they are missing the point. We exist because we are doing. Be active. Embrace every waking moment as a chance to do something. Go to the gym. Read a book. Hug someone. Be full of energy, and focus it in a positive direction. Apathy can suck the life right out of you if you let it.
Not doing, not feeling, is not living. Worse, it’s not caring that you’re not living. Apathy can be a healthy signal that you have moved past something, but it can also drag you down. Don’t let it. Just like physics, a life in motion will tend to stay in motion!