This is based on a post I made on merton-l in April 95. This will link in with evolution.

From: John Sturdy 
To: merton-l@byrd.mu.wvnet.edu
Subject: A personal view on entropy in life (as: Anger AND Politics AND the golden rule AND self-denial AND everything else)
Date: Wed, 12 Apr 95 15:37:05 BST

I haven't posted much for a while; I've let my thoughts on several topics sinter into clump, and here it is:

>>>>> "Sally" ==  <SallyClay@aol.com> writes:

> Scott Baker wrote: I had forgotten about the moneylenders in the
>> temple and this does kind of throw my whole idea on
>> peacefulness, so take this post for what it is worth. I am
>> still convinced that getting angry does more harm than good
>> the majority of the time.

> I think that the problem with anger is that, when it appears
> these days, it reflects not just the situation at hand but also
> stored up anger and resentment from past situations. Such anger,
> when expressed, does not go quickly away but remains a simmering
> resentment that again pollutes future actions.

That is certainly very much the case with me... and this gives me much more material to work on! (although it may be better to lay it aside, if I observe that it is not fruitful material to work on).

> Also, most people today are terrified of anger--their own and
> others'. This fear of strong expression also pollutes the
> situation and leads to further fear and anger, and even violence.

I know I can upset people with my anger -- given that (so I am told) I have a strong `presence' and that my self-image (from having been depressed in many formative years) says that I have a small presence and therefore must present it strongly, people can find my expression of what I think or feel about something overwhelming, and I am being taught that I have to control my expressiveness to suit the situation. In effect, I'm a very large and powerful creature trying to move gently among weak ones (and not the converse, which I long thought to be true). (Something that brought this difference into real view for me was learning to drive 18-wheelers last year! People tend to assume you get a feeling of power up there; I found the responsibility more noticeable, though.)

And so I can acknowledge (take into account) that I have been gifted with many abilities / powers / resources that I have within; more so than many around me. And yet I perceive that this difference in blessing arouses not gratefulness within me, but anger... and why is this? I can reify (perceive; bring from the un-/sub-conscious into the conscious [my PhD was on the procedural (computational) form of this!]) the reason for this, too.

It is that I see that the way I have come to be gifted with these things is that I have taken the route that may often go against entropy; against the winding-down of the universe. Presented with choices, I have at times taken something other than the way that took least effort at the time (see The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck for a clear introduction to this way of looking at things). This ties in with my ``unrelenting high standards'' (that were identified as a source of problems, in therapy)... and so, the ire is sputtered onto those I see as having made the laziest choice.

My lack of compassion cuts those who I see as being purely entropically driven (thus showing that I have taken a value judgement: that it is better to use your talents, even if it costs you the personal expenditure of effort, than to let things run downhill and let others do the work for you). So, for example, I might fail to show compassion towards someone who I see dropping litter, because I don't understand how much it (subconsciously; or am I just being sarcastic here?) hurts them to bow to the responsibilities that being truly alive imposes on them.

The non-compassionate view I take so easily is that to be entropically-driven is to be lazy; a more compassionate view is to see it as being hard for some people to make the effort (at least when there is no benefit to themselves in it -- or no immediate benefit, see Road Less Travelled about how fundamental the voluntary delay of gratification is to human growth) to do something other than what is easiest.

But then, I apply the same thinking to this thought itself; I should not take the easy route (of judgementalism) in treating those who take the easy route... but then, remember that Jesus himself says the way that leads to heaven is narrow.

So, both sides of the argument present in one person!

And I think this does tie in with the politics of the rich / poor divide, because there are some downhill routes (I'm thinking in particular of things that help you feel that your situation is alright, so you don't fix it but leave it to someone else to do the work, e.g. alcoholism) which do lead to poverty, and it is easy (i.e. the downhill route) to make the reverse assumption that those who are poor are poor because of opportunities they did not take.

It ties in also with `political correctness', which to me seems to be the process by which those who are perceived as weak are protected from the easiest choice of actions of the strong; in effect, part of society erects a wall of strength around those who have caught its favour, and thus applies pressure to act in particular ways and not to act in other ways; it is an unpleasant pseudo-compassion, which I find makes it much harder to show real compassion to those who have gained pseudo-strength.

I know that I give in to this pressure (take the easy way) here on merton-l; although in some ways my views perhaps contain compassion for the REAL poor, they also contain contrapassion for those who demand not to be poorly-regarded for taking the easiest choice. And rather than upset people, I have kept quiet.

And yet there is also a virtue in this... learning to be kind to those around me, when I have more power than them... to observe what they want, and give them it provided it doesn't conflict with what is important to me... and yet this is also a condescending view, that might hurt them if they knew about it (a bit like being in the truck cab, seeing the attention-getting driving of cars around me as being silly and childish, rather than as threatening as they mean it to be). And so the same application of an idea to itself is required.

> So I agree that, the majority of the time, anger does do more harm
> than good; but I don't think that need be the case.

Part of living above the entropically-ruled biological level is to be able to take things other than emotions into account before acting. (Again, see The Road Less Travelled.) Anger is an emotion; perhaps frequently anger is at little more than the biochemical level; on the other hand, sometimes it is at the psychospiritual level. Perhaps this distinction is one that it is important to perceive.

I'm developing some much more precise thoughts about entropy and related things in life; I mean to write an essay-post about them sometime. A foretaste of this is that the application of an idea to itself is at the heart of reification...


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