“It wasn’t until I learned to harness and express my anger in meaningful ways that I truly started to kick ass.” He smiled, and I couldn’t imagine his heart rate ever rising in excitement over anything. His face was a sagging but kindly mass of folds and wrinkles, his great age writ large there in the old flesh, and his eyes shone with a bright and burning light, as though all the experience they’d seen was reflecting out into the world.
“Anger?” I asked.
“Yes. Everyone’s got it, to some degree. Most of us sublimate it because it’s crass. Rude. Gross. We’re taught that there are better ways to resolve our differences, to turn the other cheek, to live and let live, and to forgive and forget. In my experience, those methods are only band-aid solutions for wounds that require more elaborate dressing. There’s no question that rage is an internal pressure that builds at different rates in people. Some folks have an inbuilt predisposition to being calm. I envy those folks. Though, even in their own lifetimes of placid tranquility, that anger still builds. You often hear about cases where someone snaps, and everyone who knew that person are astonished. ‘He was such a quiet man,’ or ‘she’d never hurt a fly’. Then one day, after a lifetime of never giving vent to the pressure, they burst.”
“How did you learn to manage it, then?” I asked.
“It wasn’t easy. I tried a lot of things when I was younger, and first started to grapple with that mysterious force inside me. You must understand that anger is neither a positive nor negative thing; it simply is. It’s no more malicious than the wind which, on a calm day can provide a soothing breeze that rustles the leaves in the trees and helps with pollination. Yet that same wind can be whipped up into a destructive tempest that levels homes and destroys lives. It’s energy, and that’s the first thing you need to get a handle on. Internal energy sources are rare indeed and turning their use into a discipline can give you a massive advantage in life. The thing is that most folks jump from the generation of anger to the venting of it, and usually with unfortunate consequences. Think of, for example, stubbing your toe. What’s the first thing you do?”
“Curse,” I said.
“Sure. If you’re prone to violence and have an even shorter leap from energy to impulse you might lash out and break something, generating more anger and starting a cascade effect of rage that could end with horrible results. So, it’s in being able to recognize when the anger initially rises that’s the first step to becoming its master. In my case, I’ve always been a seething mess. My younger days are littered with terrible decisions made in the heat of the moment, and almost all of them can be attributed to a lack of self-control.”
“Then, is there some technique for mastery?” I asked.
“Again, that depends on the person. What we’re talking about here is emotional judo, though, not sublimation. Meditation, for example, might lead to increased internalization of anger which, in turn, will result in the explosions I mentioned earlier. No, you need to create portals through which you can channel the fires of madness.” He paused and noted the confusion in my face. “It’s not as difficult as you might think. In fact, it’s a rather simple re-focusing of bias. For me, I visualize the anger as a reservoir of energy, and whenever I find my motivation flagging, I draw on it, and channel it into whatever I’m doing.”
“I think I understand,” I said, “but doesn’t that color your output? Aren’t things made in anger uglier than those made with kindness?”
“Son,” he said, and laid a hand on my shoulder. “Energy is energy. A thousand seeming acts of kindness have had behind them the motivation of harm, and vice versa. You may be right, on some level, if you believe in things like good and bad. I don’t. It’s too much of a headache to wonder at the morality of whatever I’m doing. I’m more concerned about getting it done. If you consider creative output as one example, who’s being hurt? If anything, it’s self-therapy, and doing more help than harm. If you want to apply a system of checks and balances to what I’m talking about, look at it as robbing Peter to pay Paul, only I’m both of those guys.”
2015.02.25 – 2023.09.21