Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sunday Sermon [Anger]

Hola mi gente,
To any police officers: I recognize and honor your humanity even as you're a part of a system that refuses to recognize my humanity and the humanity of my brothers and sisters. I recognize and honor your right as a human being to live with dignity even as the gang you belong to kills my brothers and sisters with impunity. 

Anger as an Ally

Anyone can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way - that is not within everyone's power and that is not easy.
-- Aristotle

I often warn people they shouldn’t fuck with my Changó. In the Yorùbá religion, Changó (also spelled Shango) is the god of thunder and lightning.1 I always associate the energy of this orisha (deity) with penetrating awareness. You don’t mess with him. He is a major symbol of the African Diaspora resistance against an enslaving European culture. Generally, he rules over male sexuality and human vitality. He is the owner of the Bata (3 double-headed drums), as well as the arts of music, dance and entertainment. In some ways, Changó can be said to be the product of logic and passion forged to achieve a strategic goal. This tension between cool reason and fiery passion forms the foundation of Changó's character and nature.

In the Puerto Rican vernacular, Changó is often associated with anger and impetuosity. To say someone es muy changó is to point out their unruliness, their brattiness, impetuosity, or something like that.

Anger is probably the most misunderstood emotion. We spend an inordinate amount of psychic energy trying to avoid it: “venting it away,” suppressing it, indulging it, struggling with it, over-analyzing it, projecting the soap opera we attach to it unto others, blaming it for our problems. We rarely take the time to welcome it, and just be with it -- to actually feel our anger without its corresponding and seductive narrative. Anger, for many of us, is an unwelcome but powerful stranger in our lives. It’s there, just underneath the surface, lurking in the shadows, waiting to sabotage our ass, often bubbling to the surface at the most inopportune moments. 

And please: I was there when you wished death on the driver that cut you off the other day. I was inside your head when you got angry at all those Muslims coming here to destroy Western Civilization. In fact, I know you got pissed when I called you out on that bullshit about being for war though war kills mostly innocent children and women. You got pissed when I pointed out the weakness in your political analysis, or because I’m too mutherfuckin profane.

Yes you. LOL!

Anger, or rather, mindless anger, is an occupational hazard for me. My work involves promoting social and economic justice and I am often thrust against really ugly shit: racism, brutality, the mechanisms of dehumanization It’s a difficult realization not because it’s hard for me to own up to it, but because it lays bare how much work I have ahead of me.

My work, however, has also taught me how to make anger an ally, a tool. Anger, clearly felt, without the attendant recriminations and self-justification, leads to a clear, discriminating awareness. It can become the impetus for just action. Here’s one example from my own life. When I first went about picking up the pieces of my life, I decided I wanted to get a formal education. Someone I love dearly told me not to waste my time, that I was too old, that I should drop immature fantasies and concentrate on gaining a skill and toiling somewhere for a living wage. I was so angry, so hurt that this person would tear apart my dream just like that. But I took that anger and I channeled it, used it to motivate me, not in the sense of “I’ll show him,” but as a way to focus my energies on what I had to do to make it from point A to point B. Drawing from anger’s energy, I was able to pinpoint my focus on what I needed to do, and that anger eventually facilitated my passion for knowledge.

Truth is a loving thought. Every thought based on love is a truth. Everything else is a desperate and sometimes dysfunctional cry for wholeness. And the question remains of how I should respond to anger. How can I be justified in responding in anger to an injustice? The answer here is clear: the only appropriate response is the willingness to give with an open heart.

This doesn’t mean, however, I passively allow an insecure bully to attack me, or to accept institutional injustices go unchallenged. On the contrary, living mindfully means I feel fully and act justifiably. It also means I don’t allow myself to be smeared by the mindless fears and ignorance of those that would advocate injustices. It does mean that my motivation must be based on what’s loving and true. This is hard path to tread because the temptation for moral indignation is great. But this isn’t rocket science, we all have a sense of what’s fair and when people are being unfairly treated or scapegoated. Most of us who are willing to take a look know when the game is rigged and rigged in such a way that we benefit at the expense of others. The trick is not losing my heart when coming up against the mindless fear and ignorance of those that would deny it.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization… 

1. I am not an expert in Yoruba religions, so please excuse any misrepresentations of that spiritual discipline. If anyone reading this can offer constructive criticism in this regard, I would be happy to hear it.

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