Thursday, April 25, 2013

How To Be Angry

I have to apologize. When I read about the bombings in Boston on April 15, 2013, my mind turned angrily to politics. I know. But the attack was so separate, so distant, it happened so far away from me I knew I couldn't do anything and assumed everyone at the scene would go above and beyond to help—and so to pass the time my internal dialogue got political. I'll spare you the details; suffice it to say, I jumped to the conclusion that this amount of human sadness would be used, exploited, by the slick-tongued rascals of American politics. And in doing so, I exploited the tragedy for my own purposes in the exact same way. And so, Boston, I'm sorry.

When the bombs went off at the tail end of the Boston Marathon on Patriot's Day, killing three and injuring almost 300, we were collectively confronted with the logic of chaos. Two and two no longer made four. Insanity (or "reason dazzled," according to Michel Foucault's Madness and Civilization) splashed the face of our clean, rational community, rearing its ugly head to suggest that "civilization" is still losing the battle to nature in many different ways. The sheer nonsense of the attack made us, as a culture, feel cheated. We have come a long way to build a community that is in many ways far more peaceful than it was even fifty years ago. So rightly, we got angry!

In far less extreme examples, anger occurs on a regular basis in many forms. Forget the bombs for a moment and consider your day-to-day. We often plan for things to run smoothly, as a clock. And we value our freedom and independence above all else in a world where we have control over very little. Your car won't start; your rent is going up; it's pouring rain on your only day off; when was the last time you got angry?

  The Metropolis and Mental Life 
by Georg Simmel
[The] modern mind has become more and more calculating. The calculative exactness of practical life which the money economy has brought about corresponds to the ideal of natural science: to transform the world into an arithmetic problem, to fix every part of the world by mathematical formulas...the conditions of metropolitan life are at once cause and effect of this trait. The relationships and affairs of the typical metropolitan usually are so varied and complex that without the strictest punctuality in promises and services the whole structure would break down into an inextricable chaos...The passionate hatred of men like Ruskin and Nietzsche for the metropolis is understandable in these terms. Their natures discovered the value of life alone in the un-schematized existence which cannot be defined with precision for all alike. From the same source of this hatred of the metropolis surged their hatred of money economy and of the intellectualism of modern existence.

How To Be Angry
  • Turn off your phone
  • Words aren't going to work right now: don't even think with them. Just breathe.
  • Recall the worst thing that's ever happened to you. How does this compare? 
  • If you've started an inner dialogue, turn it off. Focus on how the anger feels. 
  • Identify the problem: was it something obvious, or something deeper? Is it even in your control? 
  • Make a decisive plan of action in the opposite direction: 
    • Has someone wronged you? Act like their opposite.
    • Is something broken or dysfunctional? Act like its opposite.
    • Is something out of your control? Focus on its opposite: what is in your control?

The hardest thing to come to terms with during times of anger is the fact that it's healthy. Anger is essentially the realization that something is off balance, something that can no longer be ignored. While it's dramatically unhealthy to act or speak while you're experiencing anger—there is an inevitable snowball effect, and the results of acting in a literal state of insanity could haunt you for a lifetime—you might have needed the wake up call. 

Think of anger as an instantly jarring transition out of a comfort zone. Once you've calmed down and found perspective, you are a new person. Now see if you can help the situation; and if you can't, hopefully you will find peace in that realization.

"But," says Belligerent Bill, "This is so wishy washy. If I'm really angry it's for a good reason, and I'm going to let it be known. The idea of 'turning off' thoughts and just sitting there is for pacifists and hippies."

You're right, Bill, anger is often for a good reason, and decisiveness is a form of strength. It's a crazy world where ugly things happen everyday, and we need as many fixers as we can get. But today's article is dedicated to those of us who have acted thoughtlessly out of anger in the past and regret the effects of the tantrum. Plus, it never hurts to remind ourselves that there are certain things we simply cannot control.

So are you experiencing righteous anger, or are you just pouting? I like to think of righteous anger in terms of the just war theory. In City of God, St. Augustine wrote that "The wise man will wage just wars. As if he would not all the rather lament the necessity of just wars, if he remembers that he is a man; for if they were not just he would not wage them, and would therefore be delivered from all wars." So the anger you're feeling is probably the need for some sort of change: let it flow. But let it flow in solitude—do not act until it has settled and put you in a new, enlightened place.

Post Script:
Learn to distinguish between pain that leads to more pain, and pain that leads to no pain. Do you feel worse than you felt three hours ago?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Who We Are

Welcome to the "identify" blog (working title? We'll see). 

Before the regular posts start, introductions are in order: 

A celebration of the written word, offering a human perspective towards an inhuman environment. The "identity" blog rejects the mythology of instantaneous fact inherent in Facebook and Twitter, urging consideration, depth and balance through each post. 

We are everywhere. We shop at your favorite stores, drive on the highway with you during rush hour, and work with you at your job. Sometimes you can spot us a mile away and sometimes we're hidden very carefully. Sometimes even we don't know who we are.

We are the true spiritual visionaries. The artists, activists and prophets who challenge the American Dream with our manifesto: "not so fast: everything is not as it seems." We're suspicious of common knowledge. We dissect "truth." We know there's 2.348 million sides to every story. It's time to build a less-common perspective. 

We feel out of place in mainstream culture because we are human, not commodities. We believe education is about learning to listen and work is about building a progressive community; and yet from a young age we are taught how to follow orders and raised into careers that revolve around arranging somebody else's numbers. What now?

Archetypes of Dissent 
by Daniel Merriweather
Double Agents conceal their dual identities. Their being isn’t “either/or” but “both/and.” In practice, this makes for a strange, schizoid practice, a deeper political idealism lurking behind a socially conventional pragmatism, a person in society who is rebelling against society. The stuff of the 99% doubtless consists of many double agents: they earn a living to equip themselves to overthrow what earning a living really means.

What We Propose
  • Encouraging readers to reconnect with their human core
  • Reminding readers that nothing is exactly as it seems
  • Providing a unique progressive community in a disconnected and selfish culture

What We Reject
  • Comfort Zones: Trading our right to an open and healthy spirit for financial security
  • The myth that everything is as it should be
  • Sacrificing relevance for recency: living fast instead of living wisely

"But," Corporate Cathy may argue, "everything about my life can be described as 'mainstream' and yet I am perfectly happy and healthy. I have worked hard to achieve what I have. This blog's rejection of my lifestyle stems from some stubborn unhappiness on the authors' part."

The "identify" blog believes that everyone in the world has their own unique skill set. Cathy, if you are honest with yourself in following the true call of your heart, we support you in that. If you are troubled, angry or insulated from your community, we don't. We are suspicious of the corporate consumer movement, but well aware that it is comprised of living, breathing human beings. 
We mean no offense, and we encourage your further communication in the future. Let's collaborate!

As for our mission, we feel our calling is to dig beneath the surface of everything and investigate what might not be immediately apparent, for the good of the human race, because we are journalists. 

To conclude:

We know that the beauty of life is so powerful that it often pops up even in the most corrupt of institutions. Humans can gain as much enlightenment from a shopping mall as from the forest. Life cannot be corrupted so much that it does not move our souls whenever, wherever we encounter it. We can look at a sermon, a presidential speech, or a magazine ad and stop ourselves before proclaiming "That's a lie!" Not so fast. We say it's the Truth, but manipulated. Exploited. So what can we learn from it?

And so with that in mind, the "identify" blog welcomes you to join us in stopping and taking a deep breath. Listen. Let go.

Post Script:

The first thought, feeling, instinct that comes to mind is false. There is more than one mind in our head, and the loudest is not always the wisest; volume and frequency have an inverse relationship with Truth and right living.