Here in Louisiana, an unimaginable drama continues to unfold. The broken well deep below the Gulf of Mexico continues to spew oil, sending toxic gunk into our wetlands . This was never supposed to happen. We take it personally. Complete strangers are beginning to join voices in disbelief and frustration; it is the talk of check-out lines and Facebook groups, waiting rooms and farmer’s markets, here in Louisiana and far beyond. A Google search of keywords “gulf oil spill” + “anger” generates more than a million hits, ten times more than “depression”. Adm. Allen of the Coast Guard, in charge of disaster response, sounds disghusted and impatient. Yes, we are angry. We want it to stop. We protest.
The disaster continues to worsen.
What do we do with this anger, that rises with each photo of a fragile egret covered in petrochemical muck? Mostly we talk, and we distract ourselves, hoping for better news tomorrow. Anger is an uncomfortable emotion, especially when it is morally tinged and urgent, and we do not begin to know what it would take, to put things right. We do not need anger management; we see all too clearly what out of control energy looks like, and it is terrifying. This is healthy anger. It needs to come into sharper focus, so that we can use its energy to fix the world: better policy, better planning, greener technologies. This disaster should never have happened. If you’re not angry yet, pay attention.
In the meantime, patience is in short supply. It is very difficult to rest, with angry thoughts of the oil spill disaster constantly percolating up. For our own sanity we must also be able to breathe, and practice the art of waiting. At the same time that we are fine tuning our outrage, we need peace in our quiet moments. Anger and peace are not natural companions, and yet here we are, living with both. Being at peace allows us to see clearly where we must go, without becoming overwhelmed with outrageous circumstances that are outside of our control. It allows us to release unproductive tension, while the engineers fire their neurons and find a way to stop the gushing oil. In the meantime, while waiting for our moment to speak, we can cultivate hope for long range possibilities. When the crisis is past, we must make sure this disaster awakens a deeper sense of responsibility for our mutual safety, and that of our small, watery planet.
Take a sabbath from anger when you can, but keep it close. It may come in handy at any moment. We’re in for a long, bumpy ride.