“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for it to kill your enemy.” spoken by Nelson Mandela.
Well, my little virtual and quite probably imaginary parishioners, how are you on this fine Thursday morning? How am I? Thanks for asking. I’m feeling a bit contemplative today so if you’ve clicked in to get a good old fashioned dose of righteous anger I’m afraid you’ll be a little disappointed. Not that there aren’t plenty of good things to rant about. False apocalypse idiocy. Assaults on the constitution. Idiocy and obsession with where a body builder put his penis. I will not snap at any of that particular bait to today, tempting as it might seem. But read on anyway. My ego demands it…
A few years ago members of the world’s various monastic communities gathered at Gethsemene to discuss aspects of the devoted religious lifestyle. All monks have given up the pleasures of the world in order to concentrate fully on spiritual advancement. During the discussions a singular theme emerged and it wasn’t what you might think. Not how much they missed meat, or sex, or drugs or alcohol or tobacco. Nope. How much they missed anger. Poverty and chastity were a breeze in comparison to being even tempered. Whether Buddhist or Benedictine, the issue that most vexed the monks was how easy it was to get pissed off. What the fuck?
I think about this a lot because it would seem to be important. That and I have too much free time. Anyway, one of the things I’ve decided is that getting angry isn’t the problem. Anger is perfectly natural and frequently justified. Anger can be a great short term source of energy or motivation. A lot of really good things have happened because somebody got their panties in a bunch and did something about it. Humans are the angriest little monkeys on the planet and in a lot of ways it’s worked pretty well for us. The problem is carrying that anger with you over time.
I think anger is like milk. It’s healthy enough when it’s fresh and clean. It can even be refreshing or a useful ingredient in a larger recipe. But you don’t want to carry a bag if it around with you. It’ll get gross pretty quickly, souring and congealing before eventually turning to poison. What a great fucking metaphor if I do say so myself! I’m a freakin genius, except for all my retarded parts.
Sorry, I got distracted there for a minute. Where were we? Oh yeah, carrying anger. There’s so many ways we have doing that unsavory little task. We hold grudges. We have feuds. We feel entitlement. We relish our regrets. We blame others in the past for our current situation. All that milk rots inside us making us bitter and, I think, old. Yeah, old. The poison of retained anger ages us in ways that time can only envy. It’s weight and vitriol bends our bodies, pinches and wrinkles our faces, gnarls our joints, and eventually crushes our spirit.
Look around you. Check out the people in your life who are in their 40’s, 50’s,or 60’s. I bet some of them are ‘old’ while others still look and act like people half their age. Sure, some of it is genetics but I think more of it is anger and resentment. Those humans that can forgive will thrive while the rest will eventually be crippled by a poison of their own making. Karma in it’s purest form.
I was recently reminded of the Chinese parable of the vinegar tasters. Three old men stand around a pot of vinegar, each representing an aspect of Chinese, or in fact human, thought. The first, Confucius, has a sour expression on his face because the taste of the vinegar has reminded him that life is sour and needs lots of rules and regulations to be tolerated. The second, Buddha, has a bitter expression because the vinegar has reminded him that life is suffering and one must detach one’s self from it. The third, Lao Tzu the Taoist, is smiling because the vinegar tastes exactly as vinegar should, reminding him that all things are as they should be. It’s no accident that practicing Taoists are renowned for their youthful appearance and long lives.
I think all of this is a useful reminder that forgiveness and gratitude must be the basis of every spiritual life. Sure, I get pissed off. I can whip up a storm of righteous anger in a split second. Don’t even get me started on the way people drive. But I’m going to keep working hard on letting it go as quickly as I can. I want to forgive anyone who has ever trespassed against me and I’m pretty damn sure I can. Can you? You might live longer and look younger. In the meantime, Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion…