Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Many Faces Of Anger

Anger wears many faces, and in many of its ugly manifestations, it conjures viral images of evil, vile, malicious, and destructive. But it isn’t always so. That man possesses it as part of his nature immediately speaks to us of the noble good that it may be harnessed for.

As one of the irascible passions of man, or more popularly referred to as emergency passions, it stands unique in a couple of instances.

First, as one of the emergency passions, it partakes of and addresses good that is very difficult to obtain, but more realistically, of evil that is difficult to avoid. Thus, anger is immediately called upon when man is abruptly confronted with evil that is difficult to surmount. Thus, in an emergency situation. Remember Dante’s treatise on the hierarchy of Hell? The lowest rung reserved to those who cannot acquit themselves from sins that are most easy to avoid?

And unlike the rest of the passions of man, anger has no contrary. It has no opposite. It stands solitary, lonely, and most unique.

Many theologians opine that an added quality to it is that it is a mixed passion. It is concerned with both good and evil.

A man or woman therefore who strikes with extreme measures against a known enemy who seeks to destroy him, his family, and loved ones, is said to be using the motive force of anger for good. To help preserve his life and that of his loved ones. Survival after all is primal in man. On the other hand, the aggressor similarly moved by anger becomes your unholy incarnation of evil as manifested in this world. An instrument for evil most sinister.

In any manifestation anger has a two-fold purpose. Firstly, it is used to seek vengeance. For the good-hearted it is resorted to right a wrong, and for the dark-hearted to wreak havoc and destruction. The former feels good and justified with his act, but in this world we inhabit, the latter also in most instances feel the loathsome satisfaction for having done the evil deed. The unworldly satisfaction of seeing pain and suffering in the faces and lives of those inflicted upon.

Funny that the virtue of justice is also factored in the manifestation of anger. We express anger because we desire justice for the wrong done us. Thus we try to carefully weigh the damage done against the vengeance sought. Except that for the dark-hearted, the expression of anger is to extract vengeance simply out of hate, or for some falsely-perceived good to be derived from it. A case of our hard-wired free will blindsided by an erroneous conception of good.

Secondly, anger then takes on a likely partner, hate, the passion opposite to love. Except that the good-hearted “hates” the evil that was done, and the dark-hearted simply hates.

We know of a multitude of instances in life that can cause anger. But as always, it involves real injury, or fanciful or perceived injury. And that injury becomes the dark symbol for contempt and hate for the person or thing causing it.

And in an uncanny twist anger also brings on the simple passion of pleasure. The good-hearted feels pleasure and contentment having received recompense for the wrongdoing. And the dark-hearted could also feel the unhealthy and sick pleasure of knowing the injury done.

In summary, anger is such a complex passion. Armed and moved by it, men become strong and energetic in seeking justice. But in the process, anger can also impair one’s abilities to weigh things prudently and impartially, thus resulting in taking actions of vengeance that are way out of proportion to the injury perceived or suffered.

And as one of life’s lessons, we have learned that frequently we are predisposed to extract vengeance way beyond what the injury merits.

The case of the hammer being used to swat a fly.

What is the just means for those so wrongly trampled upon?

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  1. I think I could come up with an emotion that is opposite to anger.

    I believe you are a Christian. Jesus expressed anger, so it would seem to be an "acceptable" emotion. Probably the "hate" portion would be a no-no though.

  2. Please tell me what it is, Phil.

    Points discussed here come from the Thomist points of view, from Thomas Aquinas one of the pillars of the Catholic Church in dogma and doctrine.

  3. i think for phil it might be numbness, basically the absence of emotion.

    indeed there is righteous anger meant for righting the wrongs, as Christ had used his anger to drive out the merchants and money-lenders making a mockery of the Temple, a place of worship, but was commercialized (to the benefit of the pharisees, if i'm not mistaken).

  4. Dave:

    Numbness as a passion? But passion is a movement of man’s sense appetites, thus absence cannot be the opposite, but rather the absence of passion.

    Anger being such an integral part of man’s nature must have some good to it. But the fallen nature of man also has the predisposition to abuse and misuse


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