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  • Writer's pictureTonic Dominant

entry 2 - What Should I Do With Rage?

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

This entry contains swear words and lots of discussion of violence, briefly and specifically the Columbine shooting. It seems polite to warn you.

watch the video version of this entry here.

Begun 8.1.2021 (January 8, 2021)


Anger! Rage! Frustration! Violence!

How you doin?

I'm not really that angry or filled with rage, but that's fairly common for me, no matter the circumstances of the world. I've been examining this aspect of myself a lot recently, and this self-examination is also very common for me, because when I was a teenager, I had “anger issues.”

This admission surprises many people who know me personally – they tend to view me as calm, kind, disciplined, and compassionate – and I think this surprise reflects our sometimes unconscious belief about anger: that it doesn't coexist with these “softer” emotions. If you know a person who is consistently calm and mild mannered, docile and a good listener, can you imagine that person running full speed at another human and tackling them to the ground, all whilst emitting a throaty bellow of rage?

That's a description of what I did to a good friend in the middle of an ultimate frisbee game the summer after my senior year of high school. As with all my memories of rage-influenced actions, it's an incomplete one; I wonder if the redirection of blood around the body during an explosion of fury doesn't leave the brain enough blood to form more crystalline⁢¹ memories?

What I remember most is not playing frisbee very well. My team was losing, and this friend of mine had just scored a point, punctuating it with some comment about my team's general suckiness, so I rushed him. This was not the first time I had lost myself to rage in this way, but it was a notable event because there were so many witnesses, and they were close friends, disturbed in their surprise. After much time spent in therapy, meditation, and conversation, I can now trace the beginnings of these “uncharacteristic” moments:

  • While performing a task, I perceive that I'm not as good at it as I would like to be.

  • I compare myself to other humans performing the same task: “Why are they better at this than me?”

  • Without guidance to the contrary, my mind spirals into an illogical, but strongly compelling pattern: “You're no good!“ “Oh yeah, so why don't you DO something about it?“²

  • The longer that loop continues unchallenged, the more likely I will give over to the rage and allow it to move me – through friends, objects, or whatever feels good to destroy.

So in this moment (and in all of them), it wasn't really the single comment of my friend that blew the fuse, it was the entire game, and it was every game I've ever struggled with, boiling up inside of me, ready for someone to drop a match and ignite the explosion.

I'm Italian, and I've heard a stereotype my entire life – wait, between writing the first part of this sentence and now, I spent roughly 5 minutes googling Italian stereotypes and trying to put words to what I was looking for. Have I really heard this my entire life? What I was about write was this:

I have a long fuse and a big powder keg.³

This means I hold anger inside, gradually filling the keg and shortening the fuse, until one day someone lights me up and I explode on them. And they're like, “Hey man, just chill out!” and I'm like, “FUCK YOU I WILL KILL EVERYTHING.” and they're like “Geeze dude, it's just a game.“ and I'm like, “AAOAAAOOAGGHAAAOOHGHH"

and then…

The rage has always subsided quickly, loosening its grip enough to allow me to be angry only at myself, and not at the person I just hurt. I remove myself from the situation and rest (in the case of the frisbee game, I walked away across the park and sat by myself under a tree. A friend {or am I mis-remembering this?} came over and sat with me, silently, listening to my heavy breathing) until I can speak.

I should probably be clear – this hasn't happened to me in a while. And this is what I'm really focused on this week, in reaction to the events in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, January 6th: My reflections about rage and what to do with it. Recently I've written in my private journal, wondering whether I'm truly learning to manage and use my anger, or whether I am simply burying it even deeper. Where Anger could be filling a deep cave full of kegs, ready to explode on the next unwitting igniter of my inner fuse.

I've identified with expressions of rage for a long time. When I was young, I'm going to guess 10 - 14 years old, I identified with the writings of young humans who murdered other young humans at Columbine High School. Yes, I just checked, and I was 10 years old on April 20, 1999. I don't remember being scared, or even horrified, at that age. In fact – in my memory, anyway – I've always lacked fear for Death. Do I think it would be horrifying to be killed by a gun? Yes. But then I would be Dead, devoid of any type of feeling that I understand in my current conscious state. Whatever Death is like, I feel strongly that I can't imagine or describe it now, with my inadequately conscious, living words. The Dead keep the Dead. Their horror is ended and transformed.

So despite my lack of horror for my own death, I have great horror for the deaths of those that I love. This is common. I am more passionate about saving other people than I am about saving myself – Spiderman trained this in to me. The media I've consumed, the experiences I've had, they have shaped me in imperceivable yet undeniable ways.

My earliest memory of a ragesplsosion was in the boy scouts, so probably about 11 - 15 years old. I no longer remember any details except rolling on the ground with another young scout; arms grappling, though I'm not sure if we were punching, slapping, or kicking, but we were on the ground and we were pulled apart by other scouts. That memory is cloudy, the source of rage completely erased. Even the name and appearance of this other person are obscured in darkness. The dark side.

Isn't it just as harmful for me to suppress the dark side as to let it envelop the world? I feel that the only way the force can flow fully through me is to let it flow unfiltered, unjudged, unobstructed, but not undirected. I should build structures to direct the flow of my rage so that it may fuel my compassion and feed our mutual survival.

It's worth stopping for a minute to remind you about the Implied For Me. It's here. I even italicized it just now. But I want to make sure you notice. Notice that I'm not making a general statement or telling you what you should do. There's an implied syllogism in the previous paragraph, but I've got to suss it out. Why do I believe that our mutual survival is good? Who is that good for? Is mutual survival actually mutually good for all creatures? What about what's good for plants or animals or rocks or water or air? Is survival itself good? What are the costs, and are they good or bad?

I'm writing this as a log, a record of my thoughts about myself. I'm trying to take down data, information that might be useful to me in the future, or maybe of use to someone else. I am writing this log for me, but I am writing to you, directing my thoughts in a slightly (very slightly) more comprehensible way so that I may convince you that you are very much my fellow human, my ancestor and descendant, my comrade. I don't want to hold this log above anyone else's log. I would hate for you to layer some concept of value upon this writing that makes you think it's more or less true, or that I'm calling you to act in some righteous or correct way. Not an essay, not an article, not an informational text; a log.

I don't necessarily think you need to be like me, but I do think you can change your patterns of behavior, if you want to. I don't know you, so prove me wrong.

I believe in the infinite possibility of human ability. This infinity moves in all directions, towards light, darkness, rage, joy, compassion, and violence. I could choose to actively cultivate my bloodlust – I would start to enjoy inflicting violence on other creatures. Why should I think this is impossible for myself, just because of my kind, calm, and disciplined disposition? If I insist on the impossibility of my own personal bloodlust, I am separating myself from other humans – whether I mean to do that or not. I am saying, “I'm not like them. I'm different. How unfortunate for those people who are violent.“ That seems like a load of shit to me. Replace my life experiences with someone else's, and I see no reason why I wouldn't be building bombs and embracing violence as a means of getting what I want from society, as a a means of survival. It's just the randomness of the universe that allows me to be thought of by others as slow to anger. Why should I celebrate my randomness above someone else's? I don't want to celebrate randomness at all! Randomness is neutral.

Is it possible be to be neutral about what happened on 6.1.2021? Is it possible to describe what happened in a way that doesn't reveal how you feel about it? If I use particular words to describe the pertinent people and actions, I will undoubtedly reveal to you a philosophy, a bias, a point of view. Do I want to reveal that? Do I have a choice? Who the hell cares? You can read about what actually happened somewhere else, and develop your own language; that event really isn't the main subject I'm logging here.

If I was a popular public figure, I'd be dodging issues here. “Why didn't Tony strongly condemn those terrorists?“ I'm too slow to say things like that. What does condemn mean? What does it mean to be a terrorist? Are terrorists necessarily full of rage and sadness and frustration? Or are they evil, pure and simple? I benefit greatly from the current organization of society. My family's access to resources for generations ensures that I have a safe and comfortable life. I don't have to face violence on the daily, and so I don't. The threat of violence from the state would undoubtedly transform me, and quickly. If an organization demonstrates a deliberate lack of concern for your life, you pay attention, in order to survive. My survival does not (currently) require that level of awareness, and so that level of awareness is difficult to maintain for me.

What I want to stay focused on is the possibility of an alternate universe in which I carried a weapon into the capitol building of my country last Wednesday. What would have to happen for me to want to do that? And feel capable to do that?

Another friend of mine (I don't use names a lot, because I like to try and keep shit private. This is a log of my thoughts, not my friend's names) once told me that we need to maintain unrestricted access to weapons so that we can feasibly fight back against the state if it tries to violently oppress us (Does that word choice make it sound more logical to you than “We need guns so we can fight back against the government!“?).

I said something along the lines of, “but the state currently possesses nuclear weapons, missiles, drones, and tanks, among other firepower. How are we gonna fight back against that with guns?“ he of course replied, “well we need tanks.“ A google search later, we realized that a private citizen can, in fact, own a tank, with the proper finances, zoning permits, and so on. I pointed out the ridiculousness of this solution, given the state of our individual financial resources, and that's really all there was to be said.

In addition to the question of what experiences might lead me to be more violent, I'm engaged by the question of what experiences might lead me to more actively acquire wealth. Certain behaviors are only available to those that have accumulated large amounts of currency. And when ways I'd like to behave (throwing a frisbee more accurately, driving around my private acreage in a tank) are unavailable to me – even in a single moment, ignorant of my own ability to grow and change and improve – I might get violent as a type of behavior that at least makes me feel powerful.

The day grows late, and as the demands of survival pull me towards other tasks, I end this entry. I have not finished, but I will end. I have merely documented an exploration. There is more to say, more to feel, and more to craft.

I'll add that I did a bit of searching for psychological research on bloodlust, and I found a paper that concluded their summary paragraph with this sentence:

We nevertheless assert that humans can be put into a mode in which they can and do kill others; and this not strictly in self-defense or to obtain material gain, but rather for the pleasure of the act itself.” - from Lust for violence: Appetitive aggression as a fundamental part of human nature by Thomas Elbert, James K. Moran, and Maggie Schauer, published online 16 May 2017

I haven't read the whole paper yet, and so I will try to read all of it before next week when I have resolved to write again – continuing to make sense of how my behaviors can transform in a publicly observable way. If you have read this entry and been at all compelled by a direction my thoughts traveled in, perhaps by reading this paper yourself you will be even better prepared to engage with my musings next week.

Promises for next week: MUCH more discussion of star wars, the light and dark sides of the force, Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Darth Sidious (just added Sidious to the Wix blog dictionary), as well as some music to listen to while you read.

Ended 9.1.2021


Bonus Thoughts

1: Sometimes I write fancy words like crystalline because they just "feel" right, and then I second guess myself: "Does that mean what I think it does? Where did I even hear that word?" I looked this one up right away, and I was right, crystalline, especially when talking about written words and prose, means clear, or crystal clear, if you want to follow my mental pathway more precisely. It's unlikely I would think to use a word like that when speaking, but who cares? I'm not speaking, I'm writing. (back)

2: I often speak to myself and with myself in this way. I'm no longer disturbed by this, I consider it normal (for me). I don't think there are different people inside of me, just different manifestations of who it is possible for me to be. (back)

3: Sorry, Gus, that is not a dick joke. (back)

4: You might have to stretch yourself to follow me here. We're past the realm of logic or “making sense.“ What I'm responding to in this statement is all of our cultural perceptions and depictions of Death (don't you like capitalizing Death? it seems right), and what they mean for rage and violence. Violence is particularly “bad“ because it often causes Death.

But if we invoke the Implied For Me (IFM) Principle of Aesthetic Philosophy here, we have to wonder: who is Death bad for? Is Death bad for me, the one who dies? Is Death bad for me, the person who lives? If I decide not to answer these questions at all, it leaves me in a very open, slightly disorienting space. Only slightly off kilter, because from this perspective, seemingly “unthinkable“ human behaviors become understandable.

The two young humans who killed that day had a philosophical argument to make, and they constructed an event to make sure their philosophy would be seen. As a young, white, middle-class, straight, cis-gender, video game playing, music loving, nerdy boy, I had a LOT in common with those two young humans. Even at the age of 10, I instinctively refuted the pervasive idea, which was that the boys were somehow depraved, unnatural, or that video games had made them that way, or some failure of their parents made them that way, or male humans are just that way, or the music they listened to made them that way. I felt that if any of those things were true, that I myself was also depraved and unnatural, and I refused to accept that. (back)

5: I'm reading that back, and it still sounds preachy! So how else can we phrase that? Am I deluding myself that what I'm saying is only true for me? Should I be actively trying to make generalizations about all of humanity in order to make my words more useful? But useful for who? Pure honesty feels very very good for me. It literally feels purifying, cleansing. As though holding onto falsehoods about myself and anyone around me is actual physical poison, and I've got to let the poison pass fully through me before I can apply my full power to survival. So who cares what you do? I don't want to make people feel bad for wanting to destroy themselves or others. I do want to make people feel like they could change what they want, if they want.

A new query forms: What's the best way to make people want things? Well duh, again, BEST FOR WHO? It's never ending. (back)

6: There's a Wall Street Journal article from 28.2.2013 that gets into this. I'm not linking here, cause I think you should do your own digging, and I guess I'm afraid of the state. (back)

7: It might seem counter-intuitive to those who naturally seek wealth, or believe that everybody ought to seek wealth for their own survival's sake, but I actually think I have some kind of aversion to the behaviors that would give me more currency to work with... I'm sure I'll write more about this in the future; I don't have it figured out yet. (back)

8: Many times throughout this entry in the log, I have replaced the word “you“ with “me.“ This is reflective of my attempt to remind myself who these words truly apply to. I'm learning new habits of writing. (back)

9: I like to make punctuation explosions like this one whenever I can, I think they are very fun. That monster follows all the ‘rules,‘ baby. I created it while editing, so this is bonus thought 9, coming before 6! Is that a reference to sex or the devil? “Before and after depend on which one follows first.“ - Lao Tzu, from Tao Te Ching, verse 2, place 10. I'm working on memorizing the Tao Te Ching, I should also memorize the name of the person who did my translation, because that probably belongs in that citation up there. (back)

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