On this, the first day without anger, I cannot hep but ponder why it is that I have chosen to attempt this practice. Essentially, “What do I hope can be achieved by living for thirty days without anger?”
In my post announcing this idea I spent a brief space describing my personal experience of my own anger. I described how it can fester within a person, and how it taints a person’s interactions with others (and so taints their subsequent interactions). While I do believe this to be true I also think anger plays an interesting and ultimately crippling role in society today.
Each of us can feel small and unimportant in this world. We may look out at what’s happening in the wider world and see war, poverty, injustice, and all manner of cruelty. In our personal life we may experience the smaller wars of familial strife, economic hardship, unfair or heartless treatment, and uncaring behaviors.
The suffering we experience as a result of these things can be felt as an enormous overwhelming wave or as a nagging sorrow or depression. In my own life, debates on the political stage can set off a rant. At other times I see toddlers walk out of a courthouse not knowing mommy or daddy will not be home tonight (or maybe this decade). Such a sight dampens my mood to a place of near hopeless for our world. For each of us there may be different causes, but the suffering is the same.
Regardless of the suffering we feel, the feeling causes us to respond. We want to feel something else – often anything else. Problem is, even the smallest suffering seems unresolvable. Thus, while depression or melancholy are unacceptable in the eyes of society, and unsustainable as a way of life, we attempt to take refuge in an emotion that is acceptable: Anger.
With anger we escape the suffering of sorrow and helplessness and throw ourselves into an emotional high and apparent action. While the suffering of our experienced helplessness further reduces us, makes us smaller and less significant, anger blows us up. We become larger, louder, and stronger. Even if a person, like myself, takes no traditionally described angry “actions”, we feel our blood surge, we may rant and decry all that is wrong with the world (or simply whats wrong people like the one in front of us). Like the Hulk we become large and important.
Thing is, the feeling created by our rant or our righteousness indignation is a lie. We responded to helplessness and possibly hopelessness with and emotional explosion that ultimately means nothing. Ranting and raving (even just internally) may make us feel like we have done something in response to the suffering, after all we condemned it, but that’s all we did. We didn’t change anything.
I said that anger is socially acceptable but that isn’t the half of it. Exhibitions of anger have become not only part of our social discourse, but the height of it. News channels fill themselves with talking heads spewing hatred on their (imagined) political enemy (with greater or lesser subtlety). Television is filled with reality stars who seem to celebrate conflict, strife, and anger.
We have come to accept that expressing anger is an end in itself, proof of self-confidence and being resolute of purpose. We have even come to accept that as long as the person ends an angry or mean-spirited outburst with “I’m just saying…” or some such phrase, they are to be celebrated for their candor and for speaking out. All despite the lack of any actual movement toward helping the situation that gave rise to the suffering that started it all.
We have accepted anger as a response to bad things in the world.
We have accepted anger as a replacement for real positive action in the world.
We have accepted anger.
I commit to live 30 days without anger.