Rage and Road Mercy

This morning as I walked, I was witness to an instance of road rage. A man in a van, honking. Smashing the heel of his hand into his steering wheel. Pounding his fists on the dash. Yelling.

The air inside the van was finally too full to contain the tinder-dry rage and he opened his window to let it out. And out it came.

Everything–all of it venomous–all directed at one lady in a small blue car who misjudged the traffic light change and the line of vehicles ahead of her and wound up in the middle of the intersection preventing the van from pulling out.

The lady, wisely, stared straight ahead, not acknowledging the tantrum. Much the way, I’m guessing, she would refuse to acknowledge the tantrums of her preadolescent. But an adult male having a tantrum is a frightful thing.

I walked between the van and the car with some misgiving. The green stream carried on and finally tapered off a red light interval later. The intersection cleared and the van pulled away and left me wondering what this added and took away from his day.

What it is that sets us off?

Last evening over supper my son Mark told us about a construction site supervisor who perpetually speaks with a raised voice. It’s like he’s in a perpetual argument. Anger subsiding only in sleep. And perhaps not even then.

We are an angry bunch. This is an angry generation. We seethe. We hate spasmodically. We have scorn seizures. We curse within and we murmur audibly and beneath our breath.

We mouth breath in short gulps, the oxygen only reaching the top of our lungs, and the bile stays in our blood.

We conceal most of it, but occasionally–for some more often–it catches us in an instant and we find ourselves in the grip of an incendiary fit. The place for healthy venting having been lost.

Our desires twist us around their fingers. Our communal experiences are shallow. Violence is contagious, air-born, even recreational.

We have few models to counter all this. Certainly, for example, none in parliament. Question period produces enraged doubles. Everyone mirroring and mimicking each other–the object of debate being the debate. Any real dialogue is swallowed up and the issues long forgotten. We need to find our models beyond our "leaders."

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We need refuge from our fear. We need a fortress from our miserly desires. Better, we need a mercy-light, and we need a love-light, held for us by someone with no axe to grind and nothing to prove.

We need to receive our lives back through a renewing of our desires…a reordering of desire through the eyes of someone without envy or rivalry. We need to open ourselves to someone with lots of time to wait at intersections.

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  1. I am so grateful for people like Father James who exhibits a presence that calms. He is not envious and always gracious and grateful. I know he has changed my life for the better. I think the space he lives within beneath the Saskatchewan skies also somehow has an effect. On my more challenging days I wish to be back at the monastery…

    How much does all the noise and rush of our society contribute to the anger? I catch myself getting caught within those angry moments even though I’m “careful” enough not to show it outwardly (at least not too much). I find the presence of too many people at once, too much noise, too much rush contributes. I struggle to bring back a piece of the peace of the monastery moments.

  2. Father James sounds like good medicine — and don’t you hate it when immature people who feel envy as regularly as the sun rises don’t even try to keep it to themselves? Just have to spoil the celebration of your success or joy by wearing their feelings on their sleeve all the time? You wouldn’t know anyone like that, would you? (I’m so sorry!)

  3. ah, but knowing that my character (complete with tendencies to envy and all) pales by comparison makes it difficult to feel worthy as a friend, and difficult not to feel envy of the nobler character in the other’s life. ….not that all envy is bad, though, I will continue to argue. Beyond being simply more honest than some, my kind of envy means to induce no guilt in the other party; it means simply to say “Though I’m happy for your success, and wouldn’t want to take it from you for anything, I do long to experience a similar one for myself also.”

    I now long to be a Father James in another’s life, to have such an effect for good.

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