22 March 2014

Look back without anger, look ahead with reason

Barack Obama never gets angry.  Well, let’s say that he never shows anger.  The man’s incredibly calm; he calmly signs documents that compel military personnel to spit out hell-fire (not anger) on innocent people, provoke civil wars and bloodshed, and generate much invective for these and other reasons.  He sits back. Smiles.  Keeps signing papers. 

Perhaps he bottles it all up and belches it out in some special place in the White House with a sign over the door with the legend ‘Venting Room’.  Maybe that’s where the hilarious duo Key andPeele go to get material (check out ‘Obama anger translator’ on youtube).  But jokes aside, it’s good to keep anger and tongue in check and cheek respectively.  Not in an Obamesque sense of disguise and discharge of course.  Seriously.

A few days ago my brother, a voracious reader of texts, religious and otherwise, gleaned some anger-wisdom from multiple sources.  He had recited some quotes from memory and wanted to find the correct reference.  He found something worth reflecting on. 

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

“Allah's Apostle, (PBHU) said, "The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger." (Sahih Al-bukhari 8:135, Narrated by Abu Huraira)

A man said to the Prophet (PBUH), "Advise me!" The Prophet said, "Do not become angry and furious." The man asked (the same) again and again, and the Prophet said in each case, "Do not become angry and furious." (Sahih Al-bukhari 8:137, Narrated by Abu Huraira)

Anger destroys like fire, not only the person, enveloped in rage, but also those who try to intervene and pacify him. – Tirukkural (Tiruvalluvar)

Also, this, which is well known:

Anger begets anger. Anger never satiates anger. (Nahi verenacha verani - The Buddha)

There’s a lot of sense in all this.  Anger is emotional response.  Emotion almost always clouds reason.  When reason takes a hit, response has less chance of achieving preferred objectives.  It is as simple as that.

Maybe this is why Barack Obama is successful.  He is clinical.  He is reason-made.  Rhetoric can stir hearts but if heart-stirring rhetoric is design and if crafting is a purely mind-thing, it is a better formula of engagement.  There is pernicious intent behind it all, but even the pernicious tend to squeeze out more when they are sober. 

More seriously though, I doubt my brother was reflecting on things like, shall we say, political efficacy.  It is about being better human beings and better communities.  Just look back at the 24 hours that have just passed. How many times did emotion rise and dislodge reason? How many punches were thrown and how many avoided?  Do we ask ourselves such questions?  It is not about displacing anger like ‘Luther’ does, it is about caressing it to the point that it leaves the room of its own accord. 

Not impossible.  Ricky Ponting used to do it all the time.  He said the secret of his success was treating every delivery with respect. He didn’t let the swing-miss of the previous delivery dwell on him; he just let it through to the great wicket keeper called ‘Irrelevant’.  He never dwelled on the brilliantly executed cover drive of the previous delivery; he let the scorer handled that kind of thing.   

He left emotion back in the pavilion and met up with that creature only once he came off the ground.  His eyes, mind, heart and all relevant muscles were divested of emotion.  The bat, consequently, was not emotionalized.  It played straight. Rationally.  Erred now and then but it was nevertheless informed by reason.

It is not easy not to be upset.  It gets us down.  It weighs us down.  But if we want to do something to stop ourselves from being thus agitated, including removal of source of discontent  without causing anyone any harm, then the words my brother shared might help, I believe.