Monday, November 5, 2012

How To Not Be Angry (Maybe)


Prolonged exposure to death 

Has made my friend quieter.

Now his nose is less like a hatchet

And more like a snuffler.

Flames don't erupt from his mouth anymore

And life doesn't crack his thermometer.

Instead of overthrowing the government

He reads fly-fishing catalogues

And takes photographs of water.

An aphorist would say 

The horns of the steer have grown straighter.

He has an older heart 

that beats younger.

His Attila the Hun imitation 

Is not as good as it used to be.

Everything else is better.

I do not want to be angry any more.

The 2012 election is tomorrow and I am tired of all things political. Except for my looming anxiety that if Mitt Romney and the increasingly conservative Republicans win, the glass ceiling will be replaced and reinforced in highly personal and professional realms, civil rights—especially in terms of marriage and voter equality—will be diminished, social services will sublimate into corporate entities, education for non-economically practical subjects will disappear, corporations—although they poison us—will be further and more dangerously deregulated both financially and environmentally, and any legitimate actions to combat and adapt to ferociously shifting climate will be aggressively curtailed, I just want it all to be over. Technically, I want it over and I don’t want a different President. I like this one.

In short, I am afraid. But the fear comes out as a fury that careens towards tears and impotent rage and black depression. So I get angrier at the twists of emotion that these things take. I don’t feel like Attila the Hun so much as a confused Hamlet, stuck with knowledge and no clear path towards resolution. Or perhaps Ophelia, as she is more trapped and frustrated even than Hamlet. No wonder she loses her cookies.

And I am tired of being angry without knowing what to do. I go canvassing for Obama and the Democrats, because as of yet, there is no effective Green-Socialist party that I can join. But knocking on doors of empty houses, occasionally speaking with a live person, or donating what I can when I can to good organizations, this does not feel like enough. I was told once about political activism in another form will “never be enough, but you have to do it anyway.” And I hold that thought tight while I am peering into the dusk looking for house numbers, but it doesn’t feel like enough. In that gap, the frustration grows into anger, then fear, and then it is two a.m. and I am staring into the dark, wondering what is going to happen to entities and institutions and realities that I care about. What more can I do, where is the useful outlet for all this fear and rage and frustration?

If you know, please, tell me.

Being a somewhat moody individual, I have a soft spot for the superheroes who morph when their rage gets too much. But I can’t turn huge and green or sprout Adamantium claws or fly against Romans and Visgoths and crush the injustices I see with force. Besides, the show of force, getting into a yelling match or trying to prove by weight or volume that you are the angriest, the most right…that doesn’t seem like a useful path towards anything good. As T.H. White and his once and future King Arthur demonstrate, might is not right.

That’s one reason I don’t like all the yelling and combativeness of current politics. Sound and fury, signifying that we’re losing the ability to speak and listen to each other like adults.

But at the same time, I’m livid at what all is on the line in the current political climate. And I don’t yet know how to reconcile my yearning for quiet photographs of water with my desire to the overthrow corruption and willful ignorance that seems to be overrepresented in current government.

It occurred to me this weekend that I’ll never be able to choose between the two. I have many friends who seem reconciled to this dichotomy. They are happy, and they are furious, and seem to conduct their lives in the light of both. What I see in these people is proof that rage and frustration, unless they are all you ever feel, don’t have to totally dissipate. And also that happiness is not the same as placidness and complacency.

Mark Helpin wrote that “real power is with those who are forever still.” I am not temperamentally suited to stillness yet, or to Hoagland’s quiet. So, I guess, for now, all I can do is simply live in a way that makes me happy on a daily basis. I’ll snuffle around with photographs of water at times and to hang up the bullhorn and hatchet, but have each ready at a moments notice. This is what I see my wisest friends do, and I am calmed and encouraged by their examples.

Truly, on the basis of my waking up each morning, eating breakfast, and doing something good with my life, I don’t know if it will much matter who wins any contest tomorrow, or any other day. In terms of living beyond my own home, of living in a society that embodies values that I believe in, of course it will matter quite a bit. But the trick, I think, is to put effort into both spheres.

On that note, I’m heading out to play with my dog in the woods. A few flakes of snow are falling along the river in the grim morning light of November. It’s starkly beautiful. Then I’ll skulk outside the library for enough wi-fi to post this rant and later today, I’ll trot down to the local Obama office and put my shoulder to the wheel and feet on the pavement. No action alone will be enough for active happiness, enough to quiet the rage. But the combination, maybe. I hope so, because I am ready for everything to be better.

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