If we did not look closely, we would be forgiven for thinking that this world is fuelled by anger, hate and rage. These are the things that garner column inches, headlines, ticker tape and Breaking News!, these outlets rarely seem to want to show the happy things, the kind things, the good things, except as an afterthought, as a “…and finally”. This is wrong.
Then there are some people who spend a large proportion of their time trying to share their thoughts, their knowledge and their kindness with the world. These people are all too easily silenced by those who shout loudest and cruellest.
Twitter is a perfect example of this – how many people – how many precious voices – have left the medium because they became the focal point of hatred? How many have stepped back from passing on their goodness in this way because some cowardly shit attacked them on a personal level, simply because they took umbrage at something shared. Often the fact is that this shit misread or confused something – 140 characters is hardly an essay, after all.
I am working on a novel. (All writers say this.) This novel is one of nine in a series, each connected but not necessarily following a logical pattern.
I say this, not for some peculiar mistimed self-promotion, but because one of the principal reasons behind these books is to enable me to address certain things very wrong with the world. Or, perhaps, things I see as wrong with the world. (Each novel addresses different issues within an overarching framework of, well – “things are shit and what would happen if some very powerful people decided to alter this…). My twitter bio reads thus:
“Writes. Turns anger into art. Art wins.”
And I mean it. I have a lot of anger at this world, anger at injustice, anger at cruelty, anger at those in power who misuse it, anger at war, anger at people’s anger…
I am Taurean, I don’t exactly check my horoscope, but there are certain traits the bull possesses that are me, through and through. One of these, and the one I like the least – and did something about – is my temper. To be honest, very few people would know I have a temper. Even before I addressed it I could be prodded and poked and teased and attacked and sworn at. All the while calm, collected, rational and peaceful. But you can only wave a rag in front of a bull for so long. Then – snap!
People talk about red mist, about not knowing what they did after losing their temper, there are the tales of berserk warriors, waking up from this state and having no idea how they got there, no idea what they had done. That was me. I have only lost my temper a handful of times in my life, but the last time I did (not far off twenty years ago now) was enough to terrify me into doing something about it.
I learnt to always be aware of where on my personal scale of anger I was. I learnt tricks of the mind to calm me when I realised I was getting ever-so-slightly riled – because the switch from this state to the full red mist could be sudden. I learnt (mostly eastern) martial arts techniques for harnessing negative energy and turning it into something more positive. When Bruce Banner says “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” – that is me. I do not exactly turn green, but I do turn wild.
Today I found myself employing these techniques, anger needed lancing, drained from my mind like pus from a wound.
A number of things contributed to this moment, some were innocuous on their own, nothing that could touch me – I just shook my head and moved on. But, piece by piece, today built on each setback, each irritant. I am thinking about someone close today, as they undergo something they are terrified of – and I can do nothing to help beyond share a few words of support. Being unable to help more is difficult for me.
Then I looked down my twitter feed and saw something that made me angry. I stepped back from the computer and did a few exercises (these help, concentrate on the body and the mind calms), employed some breathing techniques. I looked out of the window and watched a small child throwing a ball to a dog, the bright green of June leaves jolting and jerking as birds danced amongst them.
Then I returned to twitter and sent a message to the person who had become the latest on my feed to be attacked on a personal level. Whatever the offending tweet was (and, personally, I seriously doubt there was any offence there – and definitely nothing intended), I do not know, it had been deleted and a couple of tweets added to explain that twitter was not the medium for them, that they were leaving it in sorrow, not anger. Then I sent another brief note – 140 characters is not enough to tell a person the positive impact their work, their words, has had on me. To be honest, neither is 280 characters.
I will still follow this person elsewhere (and I hope they do one day return to twitter, for they will be sorely missed), but I am still breathing deeply, through the nose, out through the mouth. In, out. In, out.
Anger gets us nowhere. It is certainly not good for me.
Instead I will feel sorrow too, a sadness at the fact so many people may now miss out on something wonderful, on words and pictures carefully chosen and balanced. On someone good.
Over and over I see the actions of the few – a loud minority, or a minority in power – drown out good voices, hound and bully and intimidate their way to a resolution they seem happy with. It is never “just banter”, it is never “just words”.
Bullying, in all its forms, moves me along that scale, makes me breathe a little more carefully, calming. In, out.
You would not like me when I am angry – and I would not like myself. I have no intention of losing my temper again.
So perhaps today it is best to show love, to show forgiveness and kindness? I believe this to be right but, for me at this moment, a little too difficult. I am not a perfect person, I am not a saint, but I will try my hardest to follow the example set by the person I am talking about above. I will try and turn my anger into art, it is what this person would want and, in this art, I will try and make people think about what is truly right and what is simply wrong.
I tell stories, I make things up, but that does not mean these stories are not real. Stories can be true too.