Flowers in California

Flowers in California

Friday, September 16, 2011

When Anger is Ablaze

I understand anger.  I know its strength.  It can lead us to say hurtful things.  And act irrationally.  It is a very powerful emotion and I suppose if we can experience intense joy and love, we can also feel intense anger.  It's part of the package.

I have been having more trouble understanding how someone sets a multi-family dwelling on fire because of a fight with one's spouse.  This happened locally this week.  I don't mean to suggest that setting the spouse's home on fire would be a good idea if it were single-family.  This is a horrible action to take but I choose to believe that it was meant as an act of property destruction and not murder (it was not in the middle of the night).  To go beyond the notion of revenge on someone you're mad at, though, to the point of destroying other people's homes and belongings and risking a lot of lives, takes some heavy duty anger and a lot of irrational thought.  Also, it was after the initial disturbance so this person had time to think.  It's awful.

Actions have consequences.  Even if this person thought he would not be arrested for the crime, he had to know that there would be damage, inconvenience and major upset for the other tenants.  Was he so blinded by his own own problems that he didn't consider these repercussions?  Was he abusing some kind of substance and his judgment clouded?  Does he feel so wronged by the world that he wants to get back at more people than just his spouse?  What made him believe this was the best course of action?

Nobody wins here.  He's arrested.  His spouse has no home.  A lot of people have lost their belongings and homes and found out that there is more reason to be afraid than they may have realized.  But he was angry and he acted on his anger.  I guess he did what he set out to do.

I wonder if we can teach children to handle anger better.  Would that be enough?  We also need to consider the effects of our actions on others if we are to live peacefully.  Can we teach that?  And who are we?  Who does and who should do the teaching?

I don't know.  I wish there were ways to ensure that people don't do things like this again.  Individually, I can try to understand my own anger and help people around me to process theirs.  And maybe being kind and courteous when interacting with strangers can help a little bit.  Rather than stoke the fires of people's anger and hurt, I can add some pleasantness.  I don't think it can hurt.  But I don't really know how we can stop people from taking such terrible actions.  I wish that people put their energy into making things better rather than so much worse.  I am happy when I think of how much better the world would be, and I am trying to hope will be, when more people do that.


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