Nature isn’t stupid. It didn’t give you a collection of useless emotions. It gave you love to bond you to your community, it gave you fear to keep you safe. You have your bell and your thunderbolt, as the Buddhists might say. A little love and you have appeal, a lot and you have a romance. Have a bit of fear and you’re excited, have too much and you bare your teeth in anger.
There’s a lot of folks today that figure that once we’re advanced enough that we’ll drop that last one (as though we’re being graded by someone other than our own egos). We will see a less angry world for sure, but going so far as to think that anger is beneath love is to live in a dualistic world of ego. Things simply are. You may have noticed that the world functions the way it will regardless of your opinions about it.
Of course, it’s not like we’re helpless in this life. Maybe we don’t control the ocean, but we can learn to be a pretty skillful sailor. That said, even skillful sailors have to face storms. Big human emotions are like storms. But even facing those can be exhilarating and expanding if done with an open attitude. A grandmother’s patience was won by raising her own terrible two-year olds. If you take the problem away, you also take away the sense of achievement that goes with overcoming it.
What you do want to avoid is egocentric anger. This is a fabricated, thought-based anger that is based on something like your hopes or expectations. Don’t go blaming anger for that though. You were living in ego having those hopes or expectations. Those are thoughts, those aren’t the world. Pain will create the feeling of anger. But angry thought-based emotional suffering is all ego.
You getting mad about not getting something you want is not the same thing as you getting mad at an attacker and fighting for your life. Yes, they’re the same emotion, but when you were built, nature didn’t figure you were going to invent language and then sit around all day and tell yourself scary or frustrated stories that then called for a chemical that your body wanted for much more serious circumstances. It’s you telling you the stories. You can’t blame nature for needing aggressive emotions to exist.
A lot of you won’t like that idea. You want a holy that looks like yoga and sounds like Eckhart Tolle. All quiet and calm. Hey, Eckhart does know what he’s talking about. For sure that is someone presenting the truth. But in all honesty, as awesome as he is, would you really want an entire world filled with Eckharts? He’s pretty low key….
What Eckhart is saying is critically important and people should listen when that’s what they’re ready for. But Eckhart’s not who you think to call when you want to go to Burning Man with your kids, or white water rafting with your summer, beer-drinking friends. He’s not who you’d think of racing to if you were super excited about something. His calmness would absorb the excitement. Like all of us, he’s right for some situations and not for others.
The world needs variety. There’s a lot of ways to be enlightened. Don’t fall for the idea that it looks like nervous people want it to. Those are egos. Listen to Eckhart. That’s one form of enlightenment. But so was Mozart, and you might be familiar with the fact that his personality was almost the exact opposite of Eckhart’s. Meaning Mozart’s crazy life, and Symphony No. 40 and the first movement of ‘Allegro,” are also the sound of enlightenment.
Your job as an enlightened being isn’t to stop all of the world’s tumult. Your job is only to move through that tumult as yourself. The scenic flats of the river and the raging rapids are all legitimate aspects of your river. Sometimes you’re a teacher like Eckhart, sometimes you’re a teacher like a raging two year old. You can learn a lot from Eckhart. And you can learn a lot from the two year old. Because in the end, the differences won’t be in them, they will be in you.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.