I inherited the worst parts of the temper from both sides of my family. I have the hair trigger, I have the explosive rage, I have the deep malevolence and I have the lasting spite. On top of that, I’m bloody huge. From time to time I have had to replace hinges or latches on a door because I walked into it or got caught on it as I walked away. Not mad, just clumsy. The combination of these qualities has made me terrified of my temper for a long time.
Consequently I have clamped down hard on my temper. For over 15 years I have kept it carefully in check, rarely letting it out. Since this is over half my life, most people have never seen me actually lose my temper. Still, even a little flash makes alot of people visibly uncomfortable. Controlling my temper is actually a fairly simple process, although for many years it took hours a day. It was a matter of careful meditation (not in the mystical sense, in the disciplined mental training sense), ordering various things that triggered my temper, systematically justifying or rejecting various responses to each. A few things were chosen carefully as legitimate targets for my anger; intentional harm or physical violence, particularly when directed against anyone unable to defend themselves, personal failures, neglect of children/animals. On a relative scale with these, other issues are easy to see as petty frustrations. Time and repetition brought significant control.
For a long time, I equated most of my anger with the worst of my temper. All anger needed to be reigned in. This is mostly because it was actually true for a while; I used to have to check my temper when I realized that my car needed gas- why should that make anyone angry? And even if it does, why did that necessarily trigger my temper and make me respond in ways I did not want to? I honestly still don’t understand it. More recently, an awful lot of that sort of thing just doesn’t register at all. Even when something does, maintaining control has become trivial. Which is good. I like that I have changed in this way. I hope it stays.
But it also means that most of the anger I have left? It’s the righteous kind. I had my pick- I could have been angry at anything in the universe. I really did have it all when it came to fury. What is left is mostly the anger that I chose to have. I’m angry when kids are neglected and threatened. I’m angry when kids are mutilated. I’m angry that as a child, I was lied to about atheists. Like Greta, I’m still angry about Galileo. If the church wants that set right, I’ll be more amicable in 2351- provided that the apology stands for as long as they neglected it. I’m angry that the very word ‘atheist‘ is controversial. I’m angry that a U.S. Army soldier was murdered in Texas, and I’m angry the suspect said it was for not believing in god.
I’m glad to be angry about these things. It is the best part of me that is angry about these things. Those who know me well know that Don Quixote is held highest by far among my heroes. The ability to be enraged by the right things and ignore the petty trivialities of the world strikes me as incomparably valuable. Man of LaMancha has shaped me as much if not more than any other single work of art.
Still, even when I managed to get everything under control, I didn’t feel like I had accomplished anything. This is probably the biggest personal flaw that I have ever overcome, but the remembered connection between my anger and my temper still caused me to be ashamed of my anger. Then Greta Christina fixed that for me. If you haven’t watched her talk about it (linked above), you should. Now she has a book coming out about that. Old man Bais don’t usually cotton to thems newfangled technologies, but he will still definitely check it out. Super-fancy early adopters can even get it in ebook form now.