“Fear is the path to the dark side … fear leads to anger … anger leads to hate … hate* leads to suffering.” — Yoda
During my time in the book business, I recognized that one of the most powerful promotional tools an author could use was HATE; especially during election years, it was the dark force behind lots of bestsellers. Maybe that’s because Hate, according to no less an authority than Yoda, stems from Anger, which stems in turn from Fear. My favorite reminder about the downside of this whole Fear-Anger-Hate-Suffering continuum is this one:
“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”
So, how do we keep ourselves from becoming the country-sized skeleton at the feast?
First, let’s question Yoda’s authority, or at least his reductionism with regard to a causal sequence we all wish to avoid. While we’re at it, let’s quibble with Mr. Buechner’s formulation too. I’d say that the Anger he so sumptuously describes has already curdled into Hate. In fact, the only part of the sequence that starts out as a problem is the hate; we have fear and anger for a reason.
Not that you need a book to explain that fear is a natural, normal response to stimuli, but if you need more convincing, check out
The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker. The book demonstrates how every individual should learn to trust the inherent “gift” of their gut instinct. (Publisher blurb)
Or, just think through the last week and you can probably recall a time when you needed Fear and it was there for you. Like on that one poorly designed freeway ramp where half the lunatics are trying to get on and the other half are trying to get off? If you don’t feel at least a tiny little tinge of fear there, maybe you wanta back off of your barbiturates.
Anger, too, has that adaptive evolutionary vibe when you get a good dose of it. The best example I can think of for this came from personal experience. I was returning to my car after working in the bookstore for a couple hours early in the morning, and happened to be wearing my warm-ups, planning to go home and run before coming back to work. As it happened, I got my run in a different way that day: as I was approaching the exit to the mall, a lady rushed up to me and said there was a guy snatching purses in the parking lot. So I sped up a little, and came out of the mall doors just in time to see a guy absolutely RIPPING the purse off of a lady’s arm. And that was the crucial part for activating my anger response. The violence necessary for that man to get that purse off of that arm was extreme; “snatch” doesn’t describe it adequately. The lady was carrying a coffee cup, and I have a vivid image of that cup hitting the parking lot.
There was no thinking. Anger took care of that part and it worked out to have my running stuff on. The purse ripper ran around in circles, and it created a pretty silly scene for the crowd that gathered in front of the mall. I had better shoes for the purpose, continued to be fully fueled by anger so could have run all day, and the dude eventually acceded to my profane demands and lofted the purse into the air. I have that image in my head to this day as well. Someone in the crowd hollers, “he’s got a wallet, too!” and I thought then that they were taking me ever so slightly for granted.
Eventually, we catch the guy** and THEN the cops come.
The point is that a lot of what is often labeled courage or bravery is actually just Anger adorned, and without it, we’re underdressed for the party of life. So the next part to consider is:
How do we keep the fear that alerts us to danger and the anger that enables us to take prompt effective action from exceeding its use-by date and becoming Hate?
*hate (v. but can become nounish if you let it, meaning it sometimes will try to take over)
Old English hatian “regard with extreme ill-will, have a passionate aversion to, treat as an enemy,” from Proto-Germanic *haton (source also of Old Saxon haton, Old Norse hata, German hassen, Gothic hatan “to hate”), from PIE root *kad- “sorrow, hatred” (source also of Avestan sadra- “grief, sorrow, calamity;” Greek kēdos “care, trouble, sorrow, mourning, funeral rites;” Welsh cas “pain, anger”). Related: Hated; hating. French haine (n.), haïr (v.) are from Germanic.
**Buy me a wee spot of scotch and I’ll tell you the part about the Demolition Derby posse.
As always, thanks to the always illuminating