09/22/11

PREPENT5772 DAY TWENTY ONE ANGRY??

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Angry reactions to Ahmadinejad speech at the UN today, angry reactions to Obama's yesterday, online and on the streets- rage against the occupation wars of the middle east and the occupation of wall street – there's an edge in NYC today, an angry buzz. It's like everyone's playing Angry Birds…

Anger comes up all the time for everyone, everywhere – no?  who doesn't need rage management? how I'm dealing  -or not -with my anger says a lot about how I live my life.  I'd like to deal with it better. Past mid way through this prepent journey, with the eyes on the prize of self improvement and honey cake not too far away, it's time to take out the big guns – the transgressions, public and private, that makes it to most people's  'top ten sins' list. Anger is on my list, for sure.

This morning on the subway, a heavy teen boy spreads over three seats with a big bag and legs wide open, refusing to budge, in a crowded car of cranky passengers. It's a long ride and I'm tired, and got reading to catch up on for class, and I ask him politely, but firmly, if he doesn't mind moving a bit as I sit down, and he moves an inch and glares at me, then looks away. I sit, barely, pissed off, and I almost say something nasty to this kid who is sitting so tight next to me I can actually feel his ribs breathing –  but check myself at the last minute, and let it go, mostly because I'm too tired to deal with it, but also because I pause to think – who knows what his story is, what's pissing him off so much that he needs to take this space in some way place where perhaps he, sort of, can? anyway. anger averted. Not for long. An hour later, in the middle of some email exchange on some crisis I send a quick acerbic note and immediately regret it. too angry, too quick? The indignation was, I think, justified, just the tone.. so easily slips to anger, which is so harder to manage as it snowballs on.

"everyone gets ticked off all the time but we just learned how to internalize and smile our way through it," says my Talmud teacher  (Mordy Schwartz)  in class today, "but sooner or later it's gotta be dealt with." We're reading a Talmudic fragment 

that deals with God's anger management problem and offers a solution that may just work for humans, too.

God, apparently, gets angry only once a day – for a nanosecond, early in the morning, but long enough to make things terrible for the world. Can this rage be curbed? There is a solution – hidden in a story – here's my super-short synopsis and loose adaptation: One year, during the terrible wars of Jerusalem, on Yom Kippur, the High Priest  entered the Holy of Holies of the Temple and saw God. "Bless me, my son", requests God, and the High Priest blesses God poetically,  providing us for posterity with this elegant prayer which is actually a four-steps method for dealing with, and reducing, anger:

1. Use your will to allow compassion to overcome anger  2. Acknowledge, with compassion, all your other voices and needs 3. Deal with others with more compassion 4. go beyond strict justice in your dealings with others.

The High Priest's blessing would become, according to the sages, God's very own prayer, because God, according to their mythic imagining, has very serious anger issues, all the time.  We, in the image of the divine, have the same fantastic challenge, and this fable is a reminder that the key to dealing with the anger is the balance of compassion, or kindness, or mercy, or plain good will.  

Anger is essential for change – but it can channeled creatively, powerfully – not just through kickboxing or heavy metal- and sometimes into public righteous indignation and protests for progress.

My friend Justin Wedes, a local activist now down on Wall Street is one fine example of someone channeling anger into peaceful rage – non violent, armed with compassion.Justin got arrested yesterday, was released  and released a powerful statement about free speech, anger free.  I'm not yet sure I understand all that's going on down there yet – but I do know passion when I see it. This CALL TO ARMS video gives one peek into what's happening on Wall Street right now.  

Angry?  Breath. Deal. etc.

May compassion overcome anger tomorrow in the UN, and in NYC, and everywhere, if only for a moment, right now.