Sometimes I’m so angry and frustrated with the world that I feel I might just burst open and spew molten, acidic bile that would eat a hole in the very fabric of the universe.
Other times, I can be so overcome with the beauty in the world that I feel myself smiling unselfconsciously and I could, if not careful, find myself in a monologue much like Kevin Spacey at the end of American Beauty. And nobody wants that.
Both of these feelings are profound and important. It’s easier to write about the former, of course. In fact, the writing is quite often the safety valve, the relief for the ‘rusty wire that holds the cork that keeps the anger in’ – and believe me, there are days when if I could push the button and scorch every corner of the Earth with cleansing fire…
You needn’t go far to find words of wisdom that teach you to cherish the latter emotion, to practice peace and compassion and to cherish all life and to eschew hatred and anger. They are toxic, and will burn you up from the inside. I’m not sure that it’s true, though.
I read this article from George Monbiot the other day, posted on Facebook by a wise and compassionate friend. It’s the kind of thing that’s wont to act as pilot light to the reserves of combustible fury that I can draw on when I think about the world in a certain way. There’s plenty to read about if you need fuel for that particular fire. Western governments in thrall to men of unimaginable wealth and limitless greed, unconscionable cruelty in war zones all over the world, a planet ravaged by poisons and misuse; all presided over by cow-eyed dolts masticating (or similar) in front of glowing screens.
That should make us angry. It should make us angry enough to take to the streets, to fashion petrol bombs, to march on the progenitors of this monstrous culture, drag them from their thrones and bring them back into visceral contact with the nature of the pain that they cause. And then our compassion should kick in, remind us that no one deserves to suffer that way. That we are wiser and better people. That there must be a better way. But the anger should remain, tempered by our wise and all-encompassing love, and drive us on to find that better way.
Nobody would deny me the savage part of me that would defend my loved ones with tooth and nail should it come down to it. But there are other things dear to me as well. Sharing music, laughter and good times with friends; peaceful, civilised, intelligent discourse; learning from new friends from all around the world. Culture, art, and all the fruits of civilisation in a society that treasures learning and values everyone. These things are under threat, though – should we not defend them? Fight tooth and nail?
Practice compassion, meditate on the wisest path. Absolutely. But don’t let go of your anger, it’s as much a primal part of who you are as the urge to comfort a weeping babe in arms. There is a war going on for your mind.