Sunday, April 14, 2013

Can we become  kinder and gentler people?   
 
In my younger years I was a very angry person.  I may have gotten my temper from my dad but I think I already blame him for enough.  I really think my temper was innate, passed down in the genes from my earliest roots.  Wherever I got it I have it and have dealt with it in many different ways over the years.
When I was growing up I buried it.  It was mostly directed at my dad, my town, upstate NY, my fellow students in school, who never seemed to accept me, no matter how nice I was to them.  I learned early on to hide my rage because railing at my dad was never a good idea and with all the others I was trying so hard to be accepted that I could let no one know how I really felt.  I hid my anger under sarcasm, humor, and outright lies.  As a consequence I cried a lot.  All that pent up frustration had to come out somewhere so poor little Claire became a big crybaby.  I can remember getting off the school bus, going into the barn and sobbing my heart out against my horse's soft neck and wiping my tears with his mane.  My horse Pinocchio was the only one who really loved me. I must have been 9 or 10 at the time. Animals have always helped me through my deepest sorrow and I have counted my animal friends  among my deepest lifelong friends. 
Later I remember as a young 18 year old in NYC absolutely hating people on the NY subway.  We would all be crushed against one an other's bodies in the hot humid summers and I would visualize killing the men who took advantage of the situation with a ball  preen hammer to the temple.  I also visualized carving them up with a very sharp knife and skinning them the way my dad and uncle skinned dead deer when butchering them.
No one who knew me had any idea of the blood thirsty thoughts I had when my anger was raging. 
Eventually these thoughts were tempered with some sort of control, but I have always felt "there but for the Grace of God, go I"  I have never knowingly lied to myself and I am aware of how close the separation is between our thoughts and our actions.  Every action is first a thought in the mind and the follow through can be an excess of external chemicals in the body(alcohol or meth, etc.), or our own internally produced chemicals like adrenalin, hormones and all the triggers produced by disease, both mental and physical.
Any way, I hid my anger for the most part and while I would fight and argue for others in what I felt was injustice, I would not fight for myself. I would instead use my old tool box of sarcasm, humor and pithy statements to hold my enemies at bay and in worst cases resort to fantasies of mayhem and death for my antagonists.  This began to change in College when I took philosophy classes in Plato and Spinoza. I was 27 and for the first time I realized that the questions I had asked all of my life, had also been asked centuries before by persons who had the same thoughts and questions.  (O.K. I was a slow learner who had no idea what Philosophy was.  I knew about Christianity and Jesus but knew of no one who asked what does it mean to be whole, perfect and eternal and infinite?)
At Queens college I encountered the greatest teacher I have ever known. He was a friend to my husband and I for 10 years until circumstances intervened and we grew apart.  This great teacher is Harvey Burstein and he still teaches in the Philosophy Dept. at Queens college.
With Harvey and philosophy I became a better person inside and the fantasies of physically harming others became less, but I still didn't know how to handle my fear and the resulting anger it produced.
This was left until I began Martial Arts, Kaze Arashi Rhu,  aiki jujutsu, specifically.  There I met the second greatest teacher in my life, Henri-Robert Vilaire.  Sensei Vilaire was and is an enigma and I will only say that six months after I began learning at his little school in Jackson Heights, Queens, my deepest physical fears left me, almost entirely. 
I believe this happened because even though I knew I might not win a fight and that death was and is a possibility, I knew I could do something. I could fight for my life and fight for what I believe in.  Fear no longer was in control and along with the fear went a lot of the anger. I no longer felt I had to submit, hide my thoughts and feelings, and avoid frightening situations.  I am not saying I never fear but I have learned to channel it into defensive, and yes, even offensive action.
Through out this long and incredible journey my husband has always been at my side encouraging me and propping me up when I have weakened.
Sometime in Philosophy studies, late in the night, I found my personal God.  I had a metaphysical realization of how a part could partake of the whole and how the whole was always available, and in fact, saturated the part with Being.  Enough said, I am now a follower of Jesus Christ, and feel God's presence with me wherever I go.