‘…I am still just a rat in a cage’ – Smashing Pumpkins, Bullet with Butterfly wings.
It is still, after all these years, one of my favorite songs. Even if I don’t lace up my sixteen hole doc Martens and step into the mosh-pit anymore… Mostly because that’ll mean a week of ibuprofen and misery afterwards… also lets be completely honest, at the venerable age of thirty nine, anything that may result in hard living happens WAY after my bed time (these days).
Enter stage left, Louis CK.
… I’ve wasted a lot of time just being angry at people I don’t know. You know its amazing how nasty we can get as people, depending on the situation. Like most people are okay… as long as they’re okay. But if you put people in certain contexts they just change. Like when I’m in my car I have a different set of values. I am the worst person I can be when I’m behind the wheel, which is when I’m at my most dangerous. When you’re driving that’s when you need to be the most compassionate and responsible of any other time of your life, because you are fucking driving a weapon among WEAPONS. And yet its the worst people get… and I am the worst.
This one time I was driving and there was this guy a head of me and he kinda, I don’t know, sorta, drifted into my lane for a second, and this came out of my mouth, I said, ‘WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT’. I mean what an indictment. What kinda way is that to feel about another human being, worthless piece of shit, that’s somebodies son!
And things I’ve said to other people, I was once driving and some guy in a pick up truck… did… I don’t know, I don’t remember even, and I yelled out my window, I said ‘hey! FUCK YOU’. Where outside of a car is that even nearly okay? If you were in an elevator, and you were like right next to a persons body and like whatever he leaned into you a little bit would you ever turn right to their face and go ‘hey, FUCK YOU’. ‘Worthless piece of shit’. No, literally zero people would ever do that. But put a couple of pieces of glass and some road between you and there is nothing you would not say to them.
‘I HOPE YOU DIE!’ I said that to a person, ‘I HOPE YOU DIE!’ Why? Because you made me, [makes slight steering wheel motion] go like this for half a second of my life. You tested my reflexes and it worked out FINE. So now I hope your kids grow up MOTHERLESS. I mean what am I capable of? I’d like to think that I am a nice person… but I don’t know man…
-Louis CK, HBO Oh My God Comedy Special
MJ. While Louis CK is talking about Road rage, this also feels a lot like Social Media to me. Do you think Jack Dorsey sometimes stares off across the Bay towards Alcatraz island and profoundly whispers to no one in particular…
‘I have become vitriol. Destroyer of civil discourse’
Its a very weird dichotomy we have. Normal human interaction versus our not so normal human interaction. I’m not sure which one is our baseline though and which one is abnormal. Maybe the angry version of ourselves is actually who we really are when we are freed from the confines of consequence. I know its probably not quite as simplistic as a flight or fight response but sometimes it feels that the rage is the real us, and everything else is just conformance.
I suppose in the end its our actions we should be judged by and not what ideology we ascribe lip service to and how much hypocrisy we spew. Louis CK final line sticks with me,
I’d like to think that I am a nice person… but I don’t know man…
Can you be a ‘mostly’ nice person? I mean giving someone the finger in traffic can surely be mitigated by some of our more desirable social traits… like (thinks for a while).. charity! (I mean that’s okay isn’t it?)
Is it a mathematical equation? Weighted positives and negatives tallied up to reveal our rating as a human being displayed on some ethereal pivot chart or dashboard. Would we want to know our score? I don’t think I’d want to know. (Admittedly I get anxious about the possibility of an Uber driver giving me less than a five stars…) Then again I suppose it all depends if you think words like ‘nice person’ actually mean anything.
In any event the utility of rage is low. Some might argue even zero. Of course the stoics knew this ages ago…
‘How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it’ – Marcus Aurelius
… and I do believe this. And I’m trying to quit. I really am. But its hard. Like on the same sort of level for me as giving up bread. Some days are okay. Other days all you can think about is a fresh baguette.
Oh my god. Stop it!
I suppose there exists a state of being where I no longer think about delicious bread. Or resort to odious terse vocabulary and triple digit diastolic when somebody vexes me. That day… however, is not to today.
It might be tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes.