I’ve been in this world for a little over 34 years; I’ve only been really angry, and I mean really angry, maybe 15 or 20 times. Ever. I’m a pretty laid-back kind of guy; I’m just not the kind of person who’s quick to anger. Or even sluggish to anger. But on those occasion when I do finally lose my temper, it’s a fearsome thing to behold (or so I’m told). I’ve always described myself as having an incredibly long fuse attached to an enormously large bomb.
Because I’ve been truly angry so infrequently in my life, I have trouble dealing with it. I know that anger is supposed to have some constructive uses, mainly in a “spur to action” sense, but so far the only constructive use I’ve found for it has been to make people fear me. Since those people I end up striking fear into also usually happen to be the people I care most deeply about–and because being feared really isn’t something I desire–perhaps “constructive” isn’t really the right word. (During one of my more memorable rage-fueled rampages, I threw my roommate through a window. Well, OK, more “into” the window than “through,” really, but I did manage to use his ass to break the glass…sorry, Dave).
I don’t always take the fact that I’m not easily angered to be a positive; I’m afraid it’s symptomatic of something bigger. I know that I don’t feel deeply enough for current events or for human suffering in other parts of the world. I care, but I don’t, y’know, care. I know plenty of folks who do: people who want to fight for issues they believe in or who seem to feel as much for people they’ve never met as they do for the people in their day-to-day lives. One of my friends cares passionately about both local and national political issues–I’m reasonably sure he’s going to run for public office in the next ten to twenty years.
And these people that exhibit that capacity for such caring intimidate me, in a way; when confronted with this great compassion for the human condition, I begin to think that something’s wrong with me for not caring enough. Makes me feel shallow, honestly, and I don’t like feeling shallow…even though it’s quite likely that to some degree, I am.
When Terri Schiavo gets used as a sound bit by politicians lookking to gain public approval, that annoys me.
When 200,000 people lose their lives because a freak tsunami slams into the coast of Indonesia, I realize the magnitude of the loss and truly feel bad and wish it hadn’t happened, but it doesn’t intensely affect me.
When I read about American soldiers losing their lives in Iraq…OK, that starts to push my hot buttons a little bit more because I so vehemently believe those soliders have no business being there in harm’s way in the first place.
But when someone insults or purposefully mistreats people close to my heart…well, that pisses me off royally. And I mean gets my heart slamming in my chest and makes me hands tremble–and usually makes me want to break something. Or, y’know, throw someone through a window.
I’m curious as to exactly why I am the way I am in this respect; I honestly don’t know if this particular trait of mine is nature or nurture. Certainly neither of my parents were ever ones to rally around a political cause; I don’t recall ever discussing much in the way of politics or issues with either of them growing up, so environment could definitely be a factor. But my father, whom I take after in temperament more than I do my mother, is also slow to anger–I’ve rarely in my life seen him well and truly mad. (One of the few times was when I refused to cut my long hair when I was a teenager; I think that probably says something, though I’m not exactly sure what.)
The part of me that doesn’t like to think of myself as shallow would like to say that this inadequacy of feeling (as opposed to my usual feelings of inadequacy) is something I’m going to change, but I don’t see how I can…and I’m not sure I want to. I can’t purposefully make myself amp up my feelings about anything–if I do that, then the feeling’s dishonest and therefore invalid. And honestly, I don’t know that it’s a bad thing that I care more about the people that are actively part of my life than I do about those half a world away. Maybe the best I can do is to care enough to support the people who care enough to make the world a better place; maybe all I can do is try to make my world a better place.