It is impossible to quantify the impact of anger. I've spent much of the day trying to do so, but as the hours wind down, all I'm really left with is the fact is that I've spent the better part of a day unable to shake an encounter with anger.
Which wasn't even directed at me.
Still, I stood as part of a conversation this morning that began as a discussion of an idea, a reasonable, if foregone conclusion kind of discussion that pondered and shot down possibilities, but a conversation that, ultimately, became a gun and I pulled the trigger without knowing it by introducing what I thought was a harmless clarifying detail that nevertheless that led to an explosion of gunpowder and force.
Anger, I suppose, is more like a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun whose spray scatters quickly to pepper anyone in the vicinity.
Of the three listeners who were blasted by the anger that erupted when I pulled the trigger (I know my metaphor is getting shaky here), one ignored the conversation with stoic silence, one created a false equivalence that gave the owner of that explosive anger an excuse and a way out, and then there was me.
When I was walking my dog this morning, for some reason I thought of those mornings when I had walked unknowingly into a spider web, and how the feeling of that web in my face and hair was almost impossible to shake all day. It was never quite gone.
That is what anger does.
Anger also makes the witness of that anger feel like a coward, when it is the one who cannot control his or her anger who is the coward, who uses anger as weapon, who creates an environment where the threat of that anger being unleashed is as devastating as the anger itself. Why should I be a coward for living a daily life where the people I interact with have a decent control of emotions and for expecting that level of human interaction?
I told someone last week, "You know, I find myself really unequipped to deal with people who are professional oars. That just isn't the world that I live in, and people like that can get the better of me because I am not prepared to deal with them."
The same is true of the angry. I told a friend today, "You know, if I had any balls, I would tell someone that [this angry person] has hampered all of us for years." He laughed and said, "You and me go in together?" "Yeah," I said, "You and me looking for new circumstances together."
It is just like Heart Of Darkness; the person with no restraint, with little self-control, leaves the rest of us at a loss as to how to respond.
When there is chronic anger in a person, it is not deep anger. It simmers, able to reach a boil in a matter of seconds, or it lurks just below the surface, and no one we know ever knows what will bring it up. It is a Loch Ness monster-- we don't want to believe that it could exist here and now among civilized people, but when there is a sighting, we must acknowledge that stories of its presence are not mythological or lost in the mists of the past, but that when it surfaces, we are left to ponder a different world than the one we thought we lived in.