Few things can get my Hugo Boss tighty-whities in a bunch, but when I read about some of the incredible things some religious leaders, let alone their minions, let flow out of their mouths or their pens, I swear it makes me want to wear boxers and then run out and make a donation to the Churchof the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Admittedly, this is a problem of mine because I remain in the grips of greed, hatred, and delusion. But when compared with some of the lunacy that has appeared recently in the media (and let us not forget this is nothing new), I come off as absolutely brilliant when I say you should make a Manhattan with rye whiskey and not bourbon.
Well, that is absolutely brilliant. But I digress.
First event occurred last week while I was traveling in Texas. A small time Panhandle minister purchased some space in a rural weekly to enumerate his litany of reasons why folks should not vote for Obama, among them being the president's alleged support for the dreaded "gay agenda."
Seriously, if you have a copy of this, would you mind sending it to me? Because the bitches in the Gay HQ have been ignoring my missives as if I were Phyllis Schlafly.
A few weeks after this atavistic nonsense is published, a gay couple's home in that town was spray painted with the delightful words, "leave or die fags."
In and of itself, such an incident would not normally send me off, even when reading about politicians that espouse the death penalty for rebellious children and evolution deniers who sit on the congressional science advisory committee. But then I read something about an archbishop up in Minnesota that hit just a little too close to home.
Catholic Archbishop for the Twin Cities John Nienstedt has been on a tirade amping up the anti-gay rhetoric with his efforts to promote a state constitutional amendment in Minnesota to ban same-sex marriage, but it was his advice to a young mother with a gay son that stabbed me in the heart. The archbishop told this woman her "eternal salvation" was at stake if she did not toe the line on the church's anti-gay position and do something about her wicked child.
I've worked really hard to remove a particular memory from my mind, to disallow its ability to shape me, and for the most part I've been successful. But when I read about this archbishop, it recalled for me a day when I was in first grade at a Catholic school and the nun teaching the class called me up to her desk. I couldn't look at her as she spoke her vile words, and instead stared at her finger as she pounded it into the top of her desk enunciating her words: "Richard Harrold, you are an evil and wicked little boy, and God has forsaken you."
OK, so I was a victim of a hate crime at 6 years old. Whatever. It was 1964. Nonetheless, the experience left me an angry little boy who grew up to be any angry teenager who chased whatever mind altering substance he could find, and for many years, left me an angry and bitter man. And let me tell you, this was one set of Samsonite I wanted to drop the fuck off on some corner and set on fire. But would I let go of it? No, I had years of being an ox dragging my cart of woes before I finally did. And when I did, I took lots of Polaroids that I keep in my pocket to remind me of my bitterness whenever I feel really happy.
Unsurprisingly, it is at times like these that I retreat into the Buddha's teachings on anger to remind me of the need to develop a compassionate mind. There's no shortage of examples within the Tipitika that extol the virtues of letting anger go. But letting go is only part of the deal. We must also develop compassion, because without compassion, that seed of anger remains within us to be sparked to life at a moment's notice.
The story that puts it all in perspective for me is Kucchivikara-vatthu: The Monk with Dysentery. In this tale, the Buddha finds a monk suffering with dysentery who is being neglected by the other monks. When the Buddha asks why, the reply he gets from the other monks is this monk "doesn't do anything for the monks."
Now, an unskilled reader might view the Buddha's reaction to this information, as he flies into a flurry of activity cleaning and caring for the sick monk, as the Buddha becoming royally pissed at the other monks for being lazy and selfish sumbitches. But remember, the Buddha was an enlightened being; he wasn't angry, he was just throwing some shade. He nursed the sick monk back to health, then admonished the others for their failure to tend to the sick among them. But to be useful to others, one must know what to do, just as a skilled nurse knows how to tend to others.
As good as it might feel in the moment, getting angry is useless. It serves no purpose. And it certainly does nothing to remove the hatred that may prompt it. Anger and hatred are diseases, not just emotions. And there are people dying from these illnesses all over the place.
So when you're angry, may I suggest that you first nurse yourself into good health before you attempt to assist others? You cannot treat anger with more anger. You must first develop compassion. And even if you take a long-ass time developing that compassion and never get around to ministering to others, at least feel comfortable knowing by doing so you're creating one less angry person in this world filled with greed, hatred, and delusion.