Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Cultivating serendipity...

Sometimes the threads in my eclectic reading, listening, and forum lists come together in a clever little nexus.  Okay, sometimes the threads form a tangled knot headed nowhere, but every once in a while seemingly unrelated ideas collect in a little confluence, an eddy formed by rocks off to one side, away from the main flow.

This week brings me one of those moments of unplanned but deliberately sought connection.

During my HD studies I was pleased to encounter Thich Nhat Hanh.  I read in one of his books, or heard in one of his talks, something to effect that attempting to release our anger by yelling or hitting things does not release anger but strengthens it like a muscle being exercised.  He recommends that we embrace our anger without feeding and strengthening it.  I discussed that idea with a friend the other day.

Today she sent me a link to a 2010 article from the Utne Reader online titled The Angry Monk.  Zen monasteries are not nearly so emotionless as the uninitiated might imagine.  On a good day though, the monks and nuns have some awareness of the emotional issues dredged up by their practice.

The Tuesday 7 March 2012 episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart may be the best I've ever seen.  His bit about playing to the fears and concerns of Iranians, Israelis, and Americans in the tumult of their respective national election cycles was brilliant, insightful, and incisive.  Israel and Iran balance their fear on a knife edge and neither dares to be wrong or the last to decide.

Those of us whose job it is protect people, our communities, and civic order wonder how those of our neighbors brave enough to participate in the Occupy movement will choose to express their fear and anger this year.  We fear we will guess wrong.

Ugly expressions of fearfulness and weakness by the conservative entertainer Rush Limbaugh are again in the news. One is inclined to dismiss him as bloviating bigoted blowhard who exists primarily to sell radio commercials, but we do well to remember that he helps some 20 million American men practice their fear and anger every day.

I sent this Gresham College podcast link to my friend. The Psychology of Politics examines the body of research into genetic predispositions to worldviews - specifically conservative vs liberal outlooks on life. (Unlike most Gresham podcasts this one benefits from having a look at the PowerPoint in the show notes.)  She replied:

"Fear of uncertainty is connected to the over-active amygdala, which is enlarged in children who have caretakers [moms] who have a variety of fear issues"

So, do mothers and children have have fear issues because of over-active amygdalas or do they have over-active amygdalas because they live in fearful circumstances?  Do men grasp at platitudes offered by radio talk show hosts rather than admit they are afraid not to know what happens next?  Will our governments suppress expressions of anger out of fear that such expressions indict them and the systems to which they have dedicated their lives?

And then I realize that my vantage point - this confluence created by my willfully eclectic gathering of ideas - is not above and separate from the fear and anger I see around me.  Enough of others and their weaknesses, the crude outbursts, and the wars and rumors of wars.  What about me?  What of the log in my own eye?  What are my fears.  What is the source of my anger?  To what better use could I put the time and energy I use to feed them?  How shall I let them go?