Two quotes on anger and violence

10 01 2011

Two quotes have stuck out in my mind both this morning and this weekend, as I’ve been thinking about the shooting in Tucson. The internet is what the internet is, so there’s a lot of outrageous statements being made everywhere by just about everyone, so I don’t want any piece of that. The internet loses its head over one thing and then proceeds to lose its head over that just as well. At the end of the day, it’s just that it takes work to be calm. It takes an effort to speak in moderate, reasoned tones. Any path you have to take is the harder one when you have to rely on your self-control and discipline, on the process of slowing things down and remembering to breathe, reflect and not react immediately to everything, but to take it in and use your god-given intelligence. I don’t do yoga nor have I really studied much about yoga, but the focus on process is key there. That’s the appeal and not simply forsaking your gifts:

“From anger delusion occurs, from delusion bewilderment of memory, after forgetfulness of memory the loss of spiritual intelligence and losing spiritual intelligence one perishes.” (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 62)

or my personal favorite, from Asimov:

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” (Foundation)

I am equating all violence to anger and vice-versa and I’m aware of the flaw of doing that, but it does seem to me that anytime we engage in anger, we lose part of our senses, which is in turn a form of violence unto ourselves. And it’s very easy to get angry before you’ve really had much of a chance to set up any resistance against it.

And it’s also very easy for me to think like this, in these excessively calm tones, when my plans for the day have been mostly negated by the snowstorm that’s hit the South. I’m fortunate to be able to adjust and make the most of the day, but looking out the window at the falling snow does give me a feeling of serenity.

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2 responses

10 01 2011
Ruthie

Okay, I’m taking the bait and standing up for anger (but not for violence). Anger is important, I think, and no more inherently self-destructive as unrestrained joy and excitement.

I always remember a quote from some Dominican priest who taught at Oxford in the 1920s that I read in a General Studies class when I was 16 (whose name google tells me is Bede Jarrett): “The world needs anger. The world often continues to allow evil because it isn’t angry enough.”

Although I’m sure twitter-feeds and 24-hour-news stations fighting to justify their budgets with the best, most-shocking soundbite might contradict this statement over there at the moment, I do think that anger can be productive in a positive sense, and am wary of the idea that anger is the refuge of either the stupid or the lazy.

That said, enjoy your serenity and your snow. And keep it, will you: don’t send it eastwards – we’ve had enough! (snow, that is)

12 01 2011
robdougherty

Outrage at injustice is one thing and I can agree that being “mad” at unfairness and finding within that the will to do something about it is a good thing. That has a rational basis, though and I’m not even sure it’s the same animal.

It’s certainly not the same type of anger I’m talking about or the kind that’s reflected in the Bhagavad Gita quote, which is a type of anger that substitutes and overrides the use of one’s sense and reason. Irrational rage and a loss of control over one’s emotions is self-destructive. It causes us to do stupid things that make things worse, and it limits our potential to do what’s right.

Again, I’m not very well versed in Hinduism or I could probably glean more out of it. I believe, however, there is a call to do one’s duty, to fulfill one’s destiny and to do good, and that that all comes via a process of reflection and self-realization. It’s definitely a very Western concept that anger, for us, gives us a passion to do what’s right and acts as a productive force. I’ll come in and stand with you and make the case for passion, drive, zeal, “being on a mission,” anger, whatever you want to call it anytime, though. I rather like that part of our philosophy.

Also, it continues to snow in Nashville. And here we thought we’d have missed Pennsylvania.

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