I watched Gangster Squad and Lars and the Real Girl in under 48 hours, so what? Ryan Gosling is a great actor... and I really like this meme. More relevant to this post, however, is his character in Lars and the Real Girl.
Lars was a loner and didn't know how to handle his emotions, so he directed all his affections toward a sex doll he named Bianca. While he may have intended to simply take refuge in this delusion, the whole town played along with it and cared for Bianca as if she were really his girlfriend. I won't ruin the ending for you, but the Tin Man gets his heart.
In other words, Switzerland, I love you, but your neutrality is a myth. Perpetual dispassion can resemble a wu wei demeanor but, at least personally, is probably more of a Wall. To be abidingly mild-mannered is not necessarily the same as to be apathetic. As with Jiro, simple daily and careful commitments (read: loving) can sum to excellence.
But what exactly is the relationship between apathy, hate and love? Fear not, I have a diagram! Granted, it’s a graphic I grabbed from Google and edited in MSPAINT, but I think it works.
The central vortex is literally neutral territory, and thricely powerful centrifugal force makes it impossible to stay there.
So let's go clockwise as Klaus intended. Hate is blinding darkness (1 Peter, 1/2 Corinthians— somewhere in there) and cares so contrarily that it cannot know or refuses to see truth. I know from experience that hate can be a fun place to visit — Self: "Belle wouldn't like the Beast if he didn't transform into a handsome prince!" (Fun, if painful.) Sensible young lady: "Actually, she was hesitant to embrace him after his transformation." (So, I'm now so bitter I'm lying to support my hate.) — but it’s literally Hell to live in. Satan's curse is that he's trapped in hate, not apathy.
The end of apathy, however, is annihilation, which at least to Milton's demons in Paradise Lost is worse than Hell. It's difficult to imagine nothingness — Buddhists try their whole lives to — but I can't think of thoughtlessness slash apathy without recalling that scene from The Fountainhead. Doggedly critical journalist Ellsworth Toohey hounds Howard Roarke, the subject of his especial venom, "What do you think of me, Howard? What? Tell me!" Howard: "I don't."
Pretty certain that is crueler than hate. Howard doesn't even care or think about Ellsworth enough to hate him. And If I'm honest I see this in myself. (I try to hate it so that I might expel it from myself.) I don't often keep other people in mind and have hurt many by simply not thinking of them.
A certain incident with my roommate Paul comes to mind. I was writing and kept adding five more minutes until we would walk down to dinner together. His patience spent and his stomach screaming for even a Hot Pocket, he left without me. I, finally finished writing and finally feeling hungry, drove down past him to eat by myself then drove back up past him when I was done. That's cruelty by way of apathy. At that moment I literally had no thought or care for Paul re: his hunger. I assure you, this is something I rectified as the semester progressed.
Ambivalence and ignorance are both totally legitimate, but maintaining neutrality usually floats you out into the twelve o'clock of the circle of apathy. Admitting ignorance or apathy about a person or situation, however, is a fine start. In fact, it just might produce some feelings. Not necessarily loving feelings, but at least something to work with.
Bottom line: Caring is Quality. If you think you're largely apathetic, you're probably not letting yourself be drawn into one of the other two circles. And let's face it. It's risky to care.