I've become a lot of things as I've grown older, but I like to think I've become more temperate, less inclined to make snap judgment about people and things, less likely to be just plain mean. I no longer see meanness as a reflexive way of dealing with all the moments in my life that I've felt robbed of power and importance, or like I was drowning in someone else's shadow. I no longer need that sickly satisfying jolt of acid in my blood to make me feel substantial. In those moments where I feel like I might need a fix of that old drug, I find it's much easier to remain quiet and let the moment pass.
I have my temperate husband to remind me of this on a daily basis. But I also have my kids, and I have my job. Writing has taught me the infinite power of words to build up and tear down, to elate and defeat. They should be used wisely, words.
But I guess all this newfound calmness has a limit, because I feel a lot of anger still toward people who haven't yet learned these lessons, who haven't attained this temperance, who haven't learned to stop being so goddamn mean. And I'm not talking about using situational irreverence or irony or well-timed comedy to get a laugh. I'm talking about intentionally setting out to deprive people of happiness. Of marginalizing and squashing and crushing and bullying and obliterating their hopes by saying no, you're not like us. You can't have what we have.
Of denying people love.
What kind of miserable person do you have to be to stand in the way of love? How deprived of love must you have been in your life to bring so many people down and make something so ugly out of something that's supposed to be so beautiful?
I can't even imagine. I try to recall the anxiety-induced, rage-driven moments of my life where I've hurt someone specifically to make myself feel better--and forget the remorse I felt afterward--just that one moment where I felt so powerless and dejected and scared that the only available recourse was to suck someone else's happiness away and make them feel every bit as small as I did. And I think it pales in comparison to what these hateful people must be living day after day. They've become so used to feeling this way that they've rationalized it, have built their careers around it, have built their entire world views around feeling big at the expense of making others feel small.
And I hate these people. I don't want to hate them, but I do. I want to be able to open up my heart to them in order to give them the love they were so obviously denied, so that they might stop denying it of others. But I can't. I can't, because so many of these people are learned. They're intelligent. More intelligent than me, in some cases. They can solve complex equations and crossword puzzles. They can read complicated books and comprehend them. They even became Presidents and Supreme Court Justices.
THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER.
Just like I knew better.
If they can know so much, but can't figure out how not to empower themselves at the expense of others, then why should I give them any of my time and compassion when so many others who have been damaged by these people will be grateful for it?
See, I know I should be better than this. I should look to my Dalai Lama, to Jesus Christ and all those other idealistic souls who implore us to love our enemies. To turn the other cheek. To realize that the world will never really get better until we've learned to bestow love on those who hurt others. Because why else would they be hurting others if they themselves weren't also hurting?
But I haven't gotten there yet. Maybe that's the last and final step to inner peace.
It will come someday. I will be a better person.