Sister blogger Maryscott O’Connor of My Left Wing is featured on the front page of the Washington Post today. The article, by David Finkel, is titled “The Left, Online and Outraged: Liberal Blogger Finds an Outlet and a Community.” Maryscott blogs about the writing of the article here.
I admit I had mixed feelings about the article when I read it. Maryscott is one of the smartest bloggers on the web, but the article focused on how angry she is. Lord knows she has a right to be angry. We’re all angry. But Maryscott is a lot better than just angry.
But then I thought, how many other angry people are out there who haven’t discovered the Blogosphere yet? If you aren’t absolutely enraged at what the Bushies and the VRWC are doing to our country, you’re an idiot or a rightie. But I repeat myself.
Sorry, couldn’t resist that one. Just funnin’ with ya, righties. But I hope that a lot of people who read that article will check out the Blogosphere and join in.
“I don’t recall there being a vocal Right that was calling for the public lynching of President Clinton.”
Sorta takes your breath away, doesn’t it? I couldn’t read any further. Enough of that.
I’m going to ramble for a few paragraphs, but I will connect the ramble back to Maryscott and blogging, so please bear with me — Sam Keen wrote a book called Passionate Life — published in 1984 — in which he argued that adulthood is not the final and ultimate stage of life. I regret I don’t have the book at hand and it’s been a while since I read it, but I found the stages discussed online in this sermon. The five stages, Keen said, are (1) child, (2) rebel, (3) adult, (4) outlaw, and (5) lover.
As I remember it, Keen defined the adult stage as a time in which one’s values most closely reflect those of one’s society. Adulthood is the point at which we set aside adolescent rebellion and join the collective. We focus on careers and status as defined by our peers. If you are a standard middle class American adult, for example, your life’s quest becomes acquiring a fixed low-interest mortgage and a stock portfolio. The sermon linked mentions “constructing character armor,” which I remember as adopting the persona assigned to you by society, e.g., businessman, housewife, etc. Most people remain at adult stage for the duration of their lives.
The next stage, outlaw, happens to the lucky few who are separated from the collective. The separation may be caused by crisis or spiritual epiphany, but however it happens, the outlaw looks at the values of his society and sees a load of crap. “Successful” people who used to be role models seem more like zombies — the walking, soulless dead. And, like Cassandra, the more you rave about what crap it all is, the more the adults think you’re nuts. The only people who understand you are the other outlaws (or lovers). It can be very lonely.
For a good example of someone in the outlaw stage, check out the later writings of Mark Twain. His rantings were laced with wit, but if (for example) you read through this, the anger flames out at you suddenly, and you realize you are reading a very different essay from the one you thought you were reading.
Twain would have been one hell of a blogger.
One difference between the adolescent rebel and the post-adult outlaw is that the adolescent is mostly ego-driven — he’s rebelling because he wants something for himself — whereas the outlaw is less concerned about himself than about others. He wants others to see what he sees — the sham, the injustice — to make the world a better place. With luck the outlaw will eventually put aside his anger and become a lover, a person motivated by compassion to help mankind. Think Gandhi.
I’d like to add that sometimes the outlaw stage misfires and the person separated from the collective doesn’t become a true outlaw but just joins a different collective, or else works his butt off to be allowed back into the old collective. But that’s a different rant.
Anyway, with that context in mind — Maryscott O’Connor is an outlaw. And as such she’s a shining beacon for other outlaws. It’s good to be a beacon in a dark time.
Anger is nothing to be ashamed about. I like this quote from Keen:
Anger is a necessary part of the dance of love. Think of clean anger as the voice of the wise serpent on the early American flag who says, “Don’t tread on me.” Without anger we have no fire, no thunder and lightning to defend the sanctuary of the self. No anger = no boundaries = no passion.
Honor your anger. But before you express it, sort out the righteous from the unrighteous. Immediately after a storm, the water is muddy; rage is indiscriminate. It takes time to discriminate, for the mud to settle. But once the stream runs clear, express your outrage against any who have violated your being. Give the person you intend to love the gift of discriminating anger.
May all our anger be righteous.
Update update: One other thought about anger — right now, we’re on offense, and they’re on defense. Military historians say that attackers usually take more casualties than defenders, because the defenders are fighting from behind barricades or rocks or something, whereas the attackers have to expose themselves to fire to get to the barricades. Unless the attackers have artillery. Or maybe tanks. (Can we use tanks?) Anyway, as Maryscott says, we’ve been fighting from a position of powerlessness; therefore, we have to be more fierce. Let’s see how the Bush Bitter Enders act after the shoe’s on the other foot, eh?