I grew up with my much-older brothers routinely screaming imprecations that would make the zookeeper of a primate house cringe. They weren’t directed at me, at anyone else in the family, seldom at anything identifiable.
I didn’t understand that passion as a kid. What was it, where did it come from, what did it mean? Actually, I didn’t really question. Like everything else back then – like the ugly prints on our walls, like our uncomfortable chairs, like the ceramic cockatoo – it was just what was, an inexplicable part of generally inexplicable life.
Our family anger (at least on the male side) is legendary. Rod (eldest brother) could hurl curses beyond the edge of the universe. Middle brother Vic once kicked a newspaper vending machine into the middle of the street when it refused to dispense the Philadelphia Inquirer.
I wasn’t angry as a kid. I was fearful, terrified, but not angry. Then, suddenly, around age 16-17, I started to feel it: the slashing, reaming rage.
Somewhen, my dad told me how he had learned to corral his own explosive anger: Probably in his teens (he never defined the time), he became so enraged at his friend that he threw a hatched at him. It embedded in the side of a wagon next to his friend’s head. Dad realized with horror that he couldn’t let this kind of thing go on. I can attest that for the rest of his life he bottled it – in alcohol.
Over the decades, my anger has grown ever more extreme, and I’ve come to see it as aimed largely at myself. When I mentioned this “revelation” to Rod a couple years before his death, he exclaimed, “Oh yes!” without further comment.
Our family rage is directed at our own limitations and at the world’s interference in our affairs. With my father, my brothers and, to various extent, my daughters, it’s an inability to accept anything whatsoever – internal or external – that would dare in inhibit or limit our forward motion. Against even the most minimal intrusion, it roars, “One step further and I will obliterate you!”
I still approach the world this way, especially as applied to myself: When I fuck up, I should be obliterated. Such an outlook is obviously not helpful to survival (though as an old fart, I will not long survive anyway, and that’s all to the good).
Pointless fury is part of my genetic jumble. I don’t present this to excuse my bilious approach to existence, but as a way to try to see it more clearly. For if we don’t look clearly at what is in the world – good, bad or indifferent – we either fail to deal with it or we leap on some ill-considered decision that only makes matters worse.
So what inspired answer have I come up with on how to deal with my internal malignancy? Sorry, it doesn’t seem to work that way with me. As far as a cure goes, I’m as much in the dark as ever. Pills haven’t worked, I refuse to sit down and babble my woes to a paid listener, and the anger arises so instantaneously there’s no space to insert that “count to ten” nonsense.
If six decades of screaming, throwing sharp objects, ramming massive splinters through my hands and frightening the neighbors with the vocabulary of a demon has not led to an epiphany, I doubt there’s anything that will.
Ah, I know! I’ll try prayer!
Snort, sniggle, chortle, heyugh, heyugh…