In the middle of the vacant lot behind our southern California apartment complex sat a rock about the size of a huddled hog. The shortcut path to my elementary school through the goat head thorn infested vacant lot passed around it. I'm not sure how the idea took root in my mind, but I became increasingly focused on that isolated desert rock.
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After school I'd go dumpster-diving behind the apartments, pulling out empty condiment bottles. They were all glass in those days, and no matter how carefully you scraped out the dregs there were always remnants inside. An empty ketchup bottle hurled at the rock yielded a satisfying explosion of glass and left a red starburst against its side. Another trip to the dumpster and I added layers of mustard yellow and mayonnaise white. The smashed glass made its own mosaic of colors around the base as I thrilled to the sounds of breakage. Smucker's Orange Marmalade -- smash! The dark glass of Mrs. Butterworth's Pancake syrup-- crash! The shattering of a green pickle relish jar -- yes!
Day after day, smash after crash, I created layer upon layer of colored shards and blooming stains. I'd stomp down the bigger shards of glass. I'd circle the rock, studying the palette, deciding where the next burst of color should land. Once an overly full bottle of soy sauce transformed half the rock into the dark side of the moon, but a bit of sour cream in a tub whitewashed the error so I could start anew.
I never felt angry while smashing things against the rock, never screamed or cried or felt any particular emotional release. But years later when recalling that apartment complex my dominant memory was of my parents yelling and fighting with an unchecked, alcohol-fueled anger that destroyed our family, raging through the endless cycles of recrimination and regret before their marriage hardened into charged silences and long absences. They still fought back then as if things mattered or could be changed. I stayed outside until dark and climbed into the dumpster and smashed the hell out of everything breakable I could find, trying to turn those dregs into patterns pleasing to the eye and the ear.
Anger is the energy of change. Anger is the upwards rush of energy that gives us the power to say enough of this, I can't take it any more; the energy that breaks things apart so the new pattern can emerge. Anger is the energy of the seed that's been dormant underground all winter, the force that unfurls the seedling and pushes upwards, hard against the blanket of heavy earth. That seed has to get mad to push against what's holding it down. Anger is the triumph of that new shoot pushing up out of the ground, fulfilling its destiny to become what it was designed to be. When carefully and creatively aimed and channeled, anger is the energy of growth.
Whether to create or destroy with that potential energy is up to each of us, but channel it we must.