Sunday, July 10, 2016

Mad Banana Man

When I was in high school, I made a sculpture I called "Mad Banana Man", It was a banana with a face on it, pinched into an expression of cartoonish anger. Right after I had finished it, I impulsively smashed the wet clay with my fisted hand. My teacher was flabbergasted as to why I would destroy it...he liked it.
But there was part of me that could not tolerate that kind of public display of anger, could not tolerate the righteous indignation of my own heart. In addition to normal teenage angst, I had every reason to be angry. Year later, I wondered, why did I squash my own healthy impulses, even artistically rendered? Why was I surprised that a person would be comfortable with my anger and happy that I had expressed something so? Where had my anger been wrongfully squashed?
It was my learning, my upbringing, as a woman, as a daughter, to kill any hint of anger, to exercise great intolerance of a woman's anger. This is largely cultural. Angry women are seen as being irrational and out of control. Many times a woman is not listened to until she flares up in anger. Even then, her anger is not always taken seriously. But anger has a purpose, and a logic. Of course we need anger to energize us and bring us to rightful action, especially when there is a scapegoat situation. It makes complete sense.  People say anger comes from fear, that primal emotion, or when boundaries are crossed. It can be tricky, and related to one's self-view: chronically angry people, and those stuck in passive-aggression quite possibly feel completely inept and powerless, something they learned somewhere.
Righteous anger can be a cleansing fire. It is indeed a fiery emotion, a consumption that momentarily clouds your thinking. Anger is a hunger, a hunger for change, for justice, for power. It is important to use such power wisely and with love. Listen closely to anger. Listen to why she is angry. Once this work of anger begins, which is the purging of illusions and acceptance of what the voice of anger truly has to say, then clarity will come. It burns away hope, and fear, and control if we let it. It leaves one dancing on the bed of those white-hot coals called Grief. Ultimately anger compels us to act with regard to love, protection of the weak, and justice, not with self-serving oppression of another. Ironically, the oppressor is as angry as the scapegoat.
I have a situation in my life that in every way is unfair. As a friend pointed out about a similar situation in her life, on no set of morals, values, or virtues is this type of situation "fair" or "right". We are both scapegoats. She said something to me about trying to build a bridge, and then realizing there is no bridge. Of course we are angry.
There is no bridge, there is no bridge, there was no bridge. This has haunted me since I heard her say it.  I have patiently, and awkwardly, and faithfully, and imperfectly, tried to tend a bridge. The bridge was an illusion, one where anger had to burn away the veil so I could see how there was no bridge to tend. I lost so much of myself trying to prevent the loss of a bridge that wasn't even there, trying to fix and nurture something that didn't exist. I am angry at myself, and I have to forgive myself for taking so much time to tend a facade.
The realization becomes that anger has a season. The work of anger is tiresome and at some point, for me, it is not possible to live anger as a lifestyle, although the oppressor does live anger. That doesn't mean that for me, anger doesn't rightfully flare in response, but that it becomes a messenger, and often leads one straight to grief, and you can't run from grief forever. The truth that there is no bridge between you and someone once-beloved is very sad. It's more than disappointing.
One vision/theme that has been coming to me repeatedly is the picture of a wall. How some people are bridge people: relational, caring, empathetic, humble, and some people are wall people: impenetrable, stoic, rejecting, judgmental,unfeeling, unkind. How I often find myself hiding in front of walls, trying to milk them for something they are incapable of giving, angrily beating my fists against them as if they are capable of something real. The bigger part of the picture is that behind me is a big field full of color, trees, greenery, sunshine,and the flow of life, and people:bridge-tenders and bridge-builders, open sky, room to run and play, just beautiful, endless possibility. People connect and love in that field. Standing in front of walls or illusory bridges keeps me away from this field, disconnected from loving and being loved.
Spirit taps me on the shoulder, waking me up with righteous anger, cleansing me with grief: "Turn around. Live. Here is this wide, wild field, not a wall in sight."
I close with a poem by May Sarton, invoking Kali. This line says it all: "Put the wild hunger where it belongs, within the act of creation"
I'm walking into that field.



Kali, be with us.
Violence, destruction, receive our homage.
Help us to bring darkness into the light,
To lift out the pain, the anger,
Where it can be seen for what it is—
The balance-wheel for our vulnerable, aching love.
Put the wild hunger where it belongs,
Within the act of creation,
Crude power that forges a balance
Between hate and love.

Help us to be the always hopeful
Gardeners of the spirit
Who know that without darkness
Nothing comes to birth
As without light
Nothing flowers.

Bear the roots in mind,
You, the dark one, Kali,
Awesome power.

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