The Role of Anger

I’ve been thinking about the emotion of anger lately because of the ongoing debate around gun control.  Hearing the trumpeting of the Second Amendment as a justification for the slaughter of children makes me angry. And so I want to go deeper and figure out why.

A few years ago, I took a course taught by a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine that discussed the connection of emotions to health. I learned that traditional Chinese medicine identifies five emotions as integral parts of the human–Anger, Grief, Joy/Sadness, Fear and Worry–and that each of these emotions is linked to a specific organ in our body. In TCM therefore, feeling an emotion is not an unattached event, but is instead a clue–a signpost pointing us in a direction toward greater clarity and self-understanding.

The emotion anger links to the liver and its role in our lives is to set boundaries. We feel angry when a boundary within us is being violated–something we believe in is being challenged. Seen in this light then, no one makes you angry; you make yourself angry.  You have created the emotion. And that is where the empowerment lies.

When I feel angry, I try my best to rout out and examine the belief that the anger is asking me to look at. In this way, I can hope to act with clarity, rather than react. This is important, because anger is a rather pensive emotion. It is not meant to be belligerent.

In the case of gun control, the boundary within me that is being violated is the idea I have that we are all one, and that what we do to each other, we do to ourselves. Therefore in my belief system, if we think we are justified in murdering one another for ‘personal freedom’ we are not only committing violence on a physical level, we are ripping ourselves from a fundamental truth.

Now that I have ferreted out this belief, I can ask myself: do I really believe this idea the anger has pushed me to see? And in this case, yes, I do. From the moment years ago, when a damaged Vietnam vet shoved a pistol against my sixteen year old head threatening me, to the slaughter of six year olds last December by a deranged teenager, I see no value in guns. They tear rather than mend.

My anger has revealed a belief, challenged me to examine it, and asked me to affirm or reject it. In this way, our emotions are guides for our self-growth. The more we understand the role of emotions in our lives the more we can change what doesn’t enrich us. Working from inward to outward is using our emotions in the way they are meant to be used.



I Know Who I Am Even If You Don’t Know Who I Am


Hi. I’m Buddy and my mom asked me to write a guest blog because she says she “can’t put a coherent thought together” whatever that means. I do know that she is working on this thing with three letters – M,F,A. But I guess she’ll figure it out pretty soon, because, just between you and me, it shouldn’t be that hard to do three letters.

So I’m going to tell you about me. I am four years old and I live with my mom and dad, Deb and Richie, and I am a Maltese. So that means I’m cute. You might think that with my looks, I would just sit around the house and get pampered, but I am not that way. I am what I like to call an “Adventure Maltese.”  This is what I do as an Adventure Maltese: I go in the woods (but not alone, since my mom says I am “prey”) and I sniff for coyote and foxes and mink and otters and deer. It is great fun in the woods. Mom likes me to stay close to her since I am “prey” but sometimes, well okay a lot, I pretend I can’t hear her and then she gets sort of mad and then I do this thing that I will tell you about later and she stops being mad. Once I saw a bear. I wasn’t scared, but the bear was.

When it’s cold out, I like to run on the ice and chase after my mom when she skates. Sometimes I spin out.

When it’s warm, I help in the canoe, and sometimes I swim, but that is not my favorite activity. I prefer to lie on the floaty-float and have my mom and dad push me around.

I am never bad. Well okay sometimes. But then when mom or dad look like they’re not happy with me I do this thing I call the “hiney maneuver.” I stick my behind way up in the air then I look at them out of the corner of my eye and I put on my “I didn’t mean to do it but aren’t I cute” look and they start laughing. Try it next time you’re bad.

So I guess that’s all for now. I like my life. I have lots of toys and lots of friends of different persuasions—I have a boy, a cat, grown ups (lots of them) and other dog friends. I have food twice a day and I always get the ‘upgrade’ since I don’t like just kibble. And I have Buddyland, which is where I sleep at night. I hope you have a nice life too.

Bye for now,



The Unexamined Life

“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” So begins M.T. Anderson’s FEED, a sci/fi story set in a future where almost everyone has an implanted device in their brains that feeds them all the information we currently get from our iphone/ facebook/ ipad/ computer/ tablet devices.

Including, of course, the advertisements. While this may seem to be a form of freedom—no need to carry those pesky devices around—it is actually a form of enslavement. For who owns us, when we don’t own our thoughts.

In our current world, I am reminded of our devotion to and reliance upon our devices when I am in public places, where a get together looks more like people sitting at a table, staring intently at their palms. Is this a good life, I wonder? For sure it is an easier and more convenient life. But is life supposed to be easy, or convenient? Aren’t we supposed to struggle just a little bit? This life of being fed constant information feels like eating dessert all day. The sweetness is addictive and pretty soon all other food loses its appeal.

With no other taste to break up the endless sweetness, don’t we lose our power of discernment? Our ability to judge well what lies between the gaps in the information we are fed?  Recently, I was at one of those trendy coffee/tea places—the ones with the one-syllable name, like ‘Gulp’­­––and my friend ordered iced tea. “We don’t have that,” said the hipster server. “But,” said my friend, “you have tea, and you have ice…?” The server shook his head. Iced tea was not on the menu. And he couldn’t fill in the gaps between the information to make it so.

But perhaps this is the way it needs to be. We are seven billion now. A hundred years ago, we were one billion. Now must come the time of cooperation and communication if we are to continue living on a viable planet. It doesn’t sound like a bad thing. It’s just that I have this nagging thought; something remembered from high school science. Isn’t an ant colony all about cooperation and communication? And I wonder, are we raising a generation of ants who are happy just to be ants?


A Different Kind of Pretty

My brain feels like the mushy foot of snow on the ground in my yard that skiers call corn snow. I’ve noticed hectic redpoll bird activity at the feeder and I’m pretty sure the bears will be up and about in a few weeks. So that bird feeder will have to come in soon.

This is mud season. When the snow starts melting, the ice starts thawing, the sap starts running, and the earth warms up. At the tail end of winter I get stuck in the dark routine of hauling wood and shoveling snow, grumbling at the lack of beauty, always forgetting that mud season is the messy celebration of the end of winter. For me, late winter is a stately woman in a long dark coat; beautiful, but who sticks around so long you get tired of looking at her. Then one day—and right around this time of year I always forget this part­­––with a flourish, she sweeps the coat off, revealing a startling sequined outfit underneath.

My winter-stilted ennui always jolts away when that sequined spring arrives, reminding me once again that I am part of the natural world. That its cycles are my cycles. Recognizing myself in nature, I let my mushiness go the way of the spring melting snow, and settle into the contentment of belonging.