The all-conquering

Even if I did not know that loving is a major requirement for every Christian soul I would find it difficult to hate. My temperament is placid, one might almost say bovine, and although I find a number of things disagreeable, and though there are a number of people I would rather not meet, I do not seem to have the energy to hate.

Sometimes I feel I may be missing something, that bubbling, boiling, seething something that eventually blows up in a large verbal explosion. It looks and sounds so vital. And yet my few friends who know how to hate tell me the aftermath of such an eruption is invariably painful, the spirits sinking into a trough of remorse and shame. So perhaps I am well out of it.

Which reminds me that once, in my youth, I took an instantaneous dislike to a girl whom I thought arrogant, rude, and malicious. For years I upheld this diagnosis, my lips pursing with displeasure every time her name was mentioned; and when I was told I was going to meet her again, after a lapse of thirty years , I heaved a great vexed sigh. She turned out to be absolutely charming and I liked her enormously.

That one goes on nourishing one's anathemas is, I fear, true, and I am now reviewing mine with the idea of discovering whether I am still actually, or only pretending to be, annoyed by them. I wish I thought I no longer minded people talking to each other at the theater during a performance, or minded their friends who drop things under their seats - not that the dropping causes an interruption, only the totally unnecessary panic that ensues, the grovelling about and heavy whispering. That neither a spectacle case nor a programme is going to walk away before the interval does not seem to register. As the handbag falls so let it lie, is what I always say: although being a moral coward I never actually say it. I just sit and simmer.

Another test I must make myself face is unsolicited whistling in confined spaces. I like to hear the artisan whistling as he wields his tools: I rather like a good whistle myself. But out in the open. Not in a bus or a train; not in the elevator. It is not the noise so much as the utter disregard for other people's musical preferences which annoys, and conversely the arrogant assumption that everybody mustm be musical. I have found the only sure retaliation against this impudence is to whistle back. The effect made by a female senior citizen in gloves whistling ''A Room With a View'' as she nonchalantly peers at the shops out of a bus window is simply staggering. And silencing.

But do I still mind enough to do it? Or has love, which I so earnestly try to practise, prevailed?

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