Saturday, November 26, 2011

Anger In the Mirror

In our quiet and typical moments we glide through mundane days and weeks with little discomfort. The internal issues warring inside us are detached from our conscious state and cause us no particular anguish. Our lives may not be soaring in the clouds but neither are we groveling in the depths of despair. Then, inevitably, something occurs that unsettles the peace and there we are, face-to-face with an ill-defined demon, armed with little else than our own dull swords of cowardice and blame.
I had one of those moments this week and I hope it has changed me forever. This unsettling event shone a great light into my darkness—a formidable black box located somewhere in my mind, heart and/or soul. I suspect any honest individual will admit to harboring their peculiar pack of demons. We humans are experts in the field of demon keeping: we know our demons well, have raised them from pups, have fed them as needed and, for the most part, can name them, one by one. I’m not going to name all the members of my secret flock here; that would be ugly, shameful and read too much like a maniac’s confessional. But I will name one because he is legion: Anger. 
I’ve encountered lots of angry people in my life; as it has been said, “It takes one to know one.” Some people seem to exist in a state of perpetual anger and live a life dictated by it. They tend to be monosyllabic, uninterested and anti-social. I don’t fall into that category. Generally speaking, I conduct myself in a congenial manner and I sincerely enjoy the company of others, doing my best to treat people with respect and honor. However, once in a while my little demon will rise up, break out of its cage and overpower every device I have conjured to keep it at bay. It arrives unexpectedly and responds to specific life encounters that cause it to rage. In an eager attempt to keep my anger behind the scenes, I have been tracking the circumstances of its appearance. For the fascination of anyone reading this, I present this brief report. I cannot tolerate arrogance or stubbornness, especially in the areas of politics, social issues or religion. That’s about it; then again, that’s about everything. 
In The Age of The Internet we have the opportunity to be bombarded with arrogance and stubbornness minute-by-minute. Social media sites thrive on the exchange of ideas, opinions and self-promotion. For reasons I cannot explain, I am often incapable of turning away from arrogant, this-is-the-way-it-is opinions so often expressed in these portals. Occasionally I become enraged and find myself heartlessly engaged in equally arrogant responses. This is unhealthy, at best, and exceedingly unsettling. I have pledged to stop. Nonetheless, this new pledge is on the heels of a mini-tirade I blasted off to an offender a few nights ago (ironically, it was on the Eve of Thanksgiving.) Rather than “counting my blessings” I was intent on humiliating a stranger and removing his right of opinion and expression. (The only decent thing about it is that I had the wisdom to send my tirade to his private e-mail address rather than posting it for the world to see.) The next morning I opened my e-mail and read his simple response: “And Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!” I was appalled, ashamed and duly kicked in the gut. I wrote him a brief apology and have not—and suspect, will not—receive any further response. 
Where the hell does this anger come from? Well, I’m pretty sure I know: it was a singular event that I never processed adequately, an event of unacknowledged grief. And so, the question now, is this: can such a well-formed demon be defeated after years of tyrannical rule? I am very ready to do battle, but time will tell if I have the courage to fight it out in the trenches. However, there is one thing I know: I’d much rather bear the scars of this very private war than ever turn my anger on another fellow traveler, again.


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