To be a moral human being is to pay, be obliged to pay, certain kinds of attention.*
I have used the word “attention,” which I borrow from Simone Weil, to express the idea of a just love gaze directed upon an individual reality. I believe this to be the characteristic and proper mark of the active moral agent.**
I hope I’m not an angry person but I do get angry. How about you?
It’s not a good thing to get angry at everything and it’s not good to be angry at nothing. Our lives become unfocused when to be human asks us to be angry about something.
Nassim Taleb reminds us as even as he is reminding himself:
‘I believe that I need my emotions to formulate my ideas and get the energy to execute them.’^
Anger is an emotion we need in order to focus and act. Our speed of moving from one to the other is the key:
Why do I feel like this?
What is happening for this person?
How can I turn this around?
How can I bring some good?
When we turn our attention to what we feel angry about then something transformational happens.
In another of his books Taleb offers:
‘when some systems are stuck in a dangerous impasse, randomness and only randomness can unlock and set them free’.^^
Anger is an emotion and anger is also randomness.
I read these words from John O’Donohue, a blessing to a friend who is visited by illness, and thought how helpful they are for bringing our attention to anger, so I’ve replaced the word illness with anger:
‘May you find the wisdom to listen to your anger:
Ask it why it came. Why it chose your friendship.
Where it wants to take you. What it wants you to
What quality of space it wants to create in you.
What you need to learn to become more fully
that your presence may shine in the world.’*^
The mention of friendship makes me to think about the thing we are most angry about may be the thing we’re here to do something about.
(*Susan Sontag, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Existential Therapy From the Universe.)
(**From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)
(^From Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness.)
(^^From Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile.)
(*^From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: For a Friend on the Arrival of Illness.)