The Buddha and Bob Heinlein

BuddhaAnger is appealing.

A quick glance at the Friday Phrases hashtag on Twitter (#FP) will confirm that. Lots of killing, mostly in anger or revenge. I had a conversation on Twitter where someone defended anger as sometimes useful.

Maybe. But not to me.

In my experience, anger, even when immediately productive, is ultimately poison. Get angry with someone, and they might do what you want. While you are angry. Afterward, your relationship with that person will be more strained. You connect less well. You may win the battle but lose the relationship.

I’ve often regretted becoming angry. I’ve never regretted keeping my cool. People produce extreme examples wherein anger may be (but is not proven to be) useful to justify anger, without seeing that anger is rarely so used. More often anger is petty, silly, and destructive. If there are positives to anger (maybe there are), it seems clear that they outweighed by the vast negatives anger brings to the world.

The Buddha once said that whoever doesn’t flare up when someone is angry wins a battle that is hard to win. Simply put: Whoever gets angry first, loses.

What has this to do with Robert Heinlein? I’ve been reading (or in some cases, re-reading) a lot of his work. It’s notable that despite a lot of action, a fair amount of killing, and overall excellent, exciting books, Heinlein never resorts (to my memory) to using anger to provide spice. I don’t recall a character ever killing in anger, even though characters sometimes say they would like to see someone dead.

Anger and revenge are an over-used trope, one Heinlein avoids (in my view). I hope that as I write, I can write something half as well without resorting to the seductiveness of anger and hatred.

In the end, I’d rather just make you laugh, even if just a little.

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