My last post was about anger (which, as I explained, rather than taking a “hot temper” form, really takes the form of a kind of constant disapproval of things). And that’s actually what I’ve been focusing on ever since. That’s really how my process tends to go. I connect with some idea in the Course on a personal level, and then I focus on it for a matter of weeks or months. Each day during that time I will pick a thought, either from the Course or inspired by it, and use that as my lesson for the day. So for now, my topic is anger. My practice isn’t particularly good these days; it’s very spotty. Since I’m up with our newborn child for a good chunk in the middle of each night, there seems to be no way to get a decent morning meditation, which is foundational for my practice through the day. But I’m still plugging away, picking a thought each day and checking off practice periods on my checklists.
I have had so many insights in the last couple of weeks about this topic. I wish I could relate them all. I’ll try to remember a few of the key ones. One is an extension of what I mentioned in that earlier post–that the external things that supposedly provoke my anger are really excuses I’ve manufactured to feed an ancient addiction (to anger). I’ve recently gone through all the references to anger in the Course, and this theme of manufactured provocations actually turns out to be an important theme, especially in Chapters 6 and 7 in the Text. The idea is that there is no real provocation to anger. After all, “anger is never justified.” The apparent provocations are all the result of my projection. I’m really only getting angry at my own projections–as insanely circular as that sounds. I’m manufacturing excuses to keep the anger cycle going.
What that brought up for me was that, since anger is never truly provoked, it is always a free, unprovoked choice. That’s something to think about. Anger is really something I choose in a vacuum, not because something “made” me angry, but because I wanted to get angry. I wanted the “benefits.” And then once I make this choice, once I freely choose anger, it “creates its own reality” (to use that famous New Age phrase). It surrounds me with a world that justifies itself, and that keeps invoking more of itself in a perpetual cycle.
That added up for me to a really simple, familiar idea that has taken on brand new significance for me. My world goes from the inside to the outside, rather than being imposed on the inside by the outside. Nothing outside of me is making me either angry or loving. I am deciding to be one or the other. That is a free choice on my part, totally unprovoked, totally unforced by circumstance. It takes place inside me, as a complete product of my power of free choice. And then once I choose, lo and behold, a world arises before me that reflects that choice and seems to require further choices along those lines. That world seems objective, prior to any choice of mine, but in fact it is just a mirror of what took place inside me.
Then the question became, “Do I want to make that free choice to be angry?” Do I really want that? And what I realized was that I was incredibly divided about that and always have been. One part of me has always enjoyed getting pumped up by putting something or someone else down. I really hate to put it that starkly. It sounds terrible, doesn’t it? But I do think it’s important to face the real nature of anger. We tell ourselves it is reactive, defensive. But I think the truth is that it is offensive. It is chosen in a vacuum for the pure sake of the “rush” of elevating ourselves by denigrating others.
Then there is another part me that is completely opposite. This part of me has always been profoundly uncomfortable with any anger in me whatsoever. I feel terribly guilty, for instance, when I get consciously angry. This part of me has a secret ambition to be purely kind, friendly, good, and loving to everyone. I remembered having a talk with a close friend on a long bus trip at night when I was fourteen about how I hated my chronic judgments and disapproval. I remembered so many things that I’ve focused on for weeks or months in my Course practice (as I described in the first paragraph) that were really designed to liberate me from this devil. I realized that somewhere inside, I equated the idea of rooting out all anger in me with something like the Second Coming. I believed that if I could just manage that one simple unequivocal choice, all would be right with the world. I would be saved. Everything would be OK. One of the lessons I have focused on recently and found moving was “The light has come. I have forgiven the world.” This sparked in me the sense that if I really let go of all my anger at the world, it truly would feel like the light had come, and had shone not just on me but on the whole world. Another lesson that was very rewarding was “No longer is the world my enemy, for I have chosen that I be its friend” (adaped from the last line of Lesson 194). That had a similar feeling. It tapped into a lifelong desire to be everyone’s friend, to lay down the sword of judgment once and for all.
I don’t really have a conclusion because it’s all still in process (and it’s time for dinner). I just wanted to give a report on the latest. I expect that (whether you want to or not) you’ll probably be hearing more from me about this.