Sunday, December 09, 2012

A Rant about Planning & the Efficacy of Anger

This will be a stream of consciousness blog.  I apologize in advance for any misspellings, logical inconsistencies and politically incorrect gaffs I might make in advance.  
I was originally going to write about plans.  The importance we place on them.  How they are essential for doing something like building a high rise apartment complex, but how they don't seem to work so well when people were involved.  
All this week I was jotting down the times I noticed people using the word, "Plan."  "I plan on going back to college...  Eventually."  Someone said that to me in a job interview.  I felt like telling the person, "you don't really have a plan."  The word "eventually" was a tip-off.  If the interviewee had a plan for going back to school, they would have said something like, "I plan on going back to school in the spring.  I've received my acceptance letters.  I am waiting for the schedule to come out to pick my classes.  I'll make sure that the classes are at night."  That last sentence would have been added to appease me and still be a prospect for the job.  
Who was it that said, "No plan survives contact with the enemy"?  I'll do a quick google search after I've written this and post it.  Whoever it was, they might have well said, "No plan geared toward getting someone to do what you want survives their response, because you can't predict what people will do."  
This was my plan, anyway.  But life happened.   Excrement hit the rotating air circulation device.  I was given a new priority that I had to focus on.  And because of that, one more thing happened. 
I got very, very angry.  
I think Anger is a very underrated and under appreciated emotion.  A lot of people spend a lot of effort to keep from becoming angry.  
Anger is associated with being out of control.  Becoming brutish.  With being irrational.  Barbarians are angry.  
I remember the opening scene from the movie, "Gladiator."  Its a battlefield before the fighting as started.  Up on the slope are the Germanic barbarians.  They are shouting.  They are rattling your swords.  They are screaming at the Romans at the bottom of the hill all the things they are going to do to them.  
Facing this angry mob in their neat, precise ranks are the Roman Legionnaires.  They are silent.  They are disciplined.  They wait.  
The image, I think, is supposed to show us the difference between wild, ineffective anger and calm, precise deliberate professionalism.  Barbarism versus Civilization.  But this image misses one important point.  
The Roman Legionnaires...  They were angry, too.  
Anger, like all emotions, come from our primal instincts.  It is born from the flight or fight response.  When something threatens us, a surge of adrenaline rushes through our bodies.  Our minds rapidly calculate the metrics of the situation.  We respond to the threat. 
If that response is to run away, we call the emotion, "Fear."  If, however, if our response is to turn and fight, we call it "Anger."  
The Germanic Warriors WERE angry.  They had made the decision to march from their huts and fight the invaders.  They weren't going to run.  They reshaped the overwhelming urge to do something about the threat into eliminating the threat.  
The Romans were angry, too. But in addition to reshaping that emotion into the decision to fight, they did something more.  They channeled it even more precisely.  Like the gladii by their sides, the short, thick-bladed sword they used which, according to one historian I read, has killed more soldiers in combat than any other weapon in history, they sharpened their anger.  They trained it.  Using their training (a sort plan of action, to tie it back with my original plan), they turned it into something that could be directed.  Targeted.  Brought to bear on a specific target at a specific time to do the maximum damage against that which has come into their lives as a threat.  
And in the movie, just as for hundreds of years in ancient times, the Romans prevailed.  Their well-honed, focused anger overcame the stirred up, wild anger of the barbarians.  And that is when the coin of the emotions flipped for the barbarians, turning to the obverse side of fear.  That's when they started running.  
I am a fearful person.  
I have been for large portions of my life.  Fear of rejection has kept me alone and left me unmarried.  It has also kept me from submitting the stories I enjoy writing so much.  I have even found myself locked in twisted cycles of emotion that I couldn't resolve, such as being afraid of losing a job that I hated.  Hating the effort to avoid the threat that made me afraid.  
This week, I had a reminder of what a potent emotion Anger can be.  I have also realized that I haven't been angry enough.  Angry enough to flip that coin over, discipline myself, and use that emotion to strike against those things that come into my life and threaten my well being.  For the most part, emotionally.  But physically as well.  
If it is an injustice your angry at, if it is the mendacity of others trying to avoid the threats they face and choosing to direct it your way instead of facing up to it, then anger can be a very good thing.  As long as you train it like the Romans did.  As long as you point it toward the threat coming at you, and not scream and fling it about indiscriminately, then it can work for you.  
Another show comes to mind.  The reboot of Battlestar Galactica of a few years ago.  A spoiler alert for anyone that hasn't seen it: I'm going to talk about the final episode of the show.  Though, anyone reading my blog has probably seen it already, so it might not be a big deal.  
In the final episode, Adama decides that, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, is it is because of mankind's misuse of technology that brought them to near extinct, and so the solution is to abandon technology until they can gain the wisdom to use it wisely.  
This was a stupid decision.  
It is akin to saying that the best way to teach someone to drive a car safely is to prevent them from getting behind the wheel until they learn to be safe.  My question is, how can you learn to be safe driving a car unless you DRIVE IT?  
I think people have a similar problem in dealing with anger.  We tell people, "Don't be angry," instead of trying to figure out what is making them angry and learn how to deal with it.  And, if that means figuring out a way to eliminating, then that's what it takes.  
That's it.  I'm done with my rant.  But I'm not done with being angry.  Not until it is a precious, shiny thing, with an edge like a razor, and the threat is laying at my feet bleeding to death.  
That's my plan, anyway. 
PS: The person that the quote, "No plan survives contact with the enemy," is attributed to is Helmuth von Moltke the Elder.  He was a Prussian Field Marshal and strategist and considered one of the great military thinkers of the late 19th Century.  
His original statement was, "no plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength," and was meant to emphasize his belief that strategy was a series of options, and that a strategist had to be ready for all possible outcomes. 
 Something to take to heart for life itself.


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