Thursday, August 4, 2016

Jekyll And Hyde

I have never made any bones about the fact that the positive, uplifting face that I present in these pages does not always come first nature to me. It’s something I have had to learn, and something I still struggle with on a daily basis. It’s a conscious decision, not a default state, and it’s a decision that I have to make again and again, quite often. You know how they say “one day at a time”? Sometimes. Sometimes it’s more like one hour at a time. Sometimes I can lose count inside of a single hour. I want to be a positive, uplifting person, but it’s not easy.

It might be closer to the truth to say that my default state is angry. I know for a fact this was true at one time, right up on the surface and all the way through. I would like to think that it isn’t as true today, but I’m not really certain of that. The demonstration of anger is certainly no longer my default state, I am far less likely to act in anger today than at any previous time in my life, but the anger itself? Just feeling angry? Like it or not, I think that’s still a pretty constant companion. These days I have learned to channel the anger into more productive activities, or to quiet it down more efficiently and less destructively than I did in the past, and I do think that deserves credit. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being or getting angry. What you do with that anger, though, can make all the difference in the world.

I think that’s one of the reasons I really enjoy the music from Five Finger Death Punch. Even the name is angry, but it’s a channeled anger, and they channel it, I think, into some very positive directions. Sometimes they channel it into a bit of spiteful fun, but I can understand that too. We all need outlets, and sometimes a little spiteful fun, if you don’t let it get out of hand, can be the outlet you need. If you don’t let it get out of hand. That’s important to remember.

Jekyll and Hyde

You might ask what we have to be angry about, and I might ask if you’ve been outside lately. Turned on the news? Looked at Facebook? If you can do anything of these things - and many, many more - and not feel even a little bit angry, you and I are not made of the same stuff. I’m not saying that’s a good or a bad thing. Just a thing. I used to be a news junkie, but I’ve stopped watching the news because it was doing bad things to my blood pressure. If I hear of a story and believe that it warrants attention, I will research it into the ground, but part of my self-improvement process was deciding that my inner peace was more important to me than being on the cutting edge of current events. If I need to know, I’ll know, with cross-checked references and an indexed bibliography, but I don’t need to know everything. The world will get by just fine if I let go a bit and just breathe. This also better lets me concentrate on things that are truly important to me.

My Nemesis

That’s another of the things I like about 5FDP: we share some of the same priorities, and some of the same directions for channeling our anger. This is a band who have made a career out of standing up for, not just being who you are (that’s Rock and Roll 101), but letting the guy next to you be who he is too. They speak out against trash-talking that girl over there because she looks different. Metal music has a reputation for being all about the tough guy, but there’s an underside as well, a darker side that needs to be addressed. Many fans of metal have embraced this music form because they have reason to be angry, and no other safe outlets for expressing that anger. There has often been a perception that there may be a link between heavy metal music and suicide rates, with some people trying to blame one for the other (there has never been a reputable study supporting this causal link and, in fact, the more reputable studies expressly state that such a causal link would be difficult to establish, as best). There may be a connection, but I would suggest, as someone with inside knowledge, that it is more likely two activities running side by side rather than one leading to the other. Those who feel alienated and disenfranchised from “normal society” gravitate to a form of music that celebrates being different and standing apart from that society. From an anecdotal perspective, I’ve personally known many people who have identified the camaraderie of metal fans and the feeling that “someone gets me” which they find in metal music to be cathartic, even, in some cases, life saving. I know that cranking up the dial and rattling the walls has gotten me through more than a few bad times. Make of that what you will.

Coming Down

I can’t talk about 5FDP without talking about their song “Wrong Side of Heaven”. It’s a song and video that deserves its own special mention, specifically, and by name. According to a 2012 report from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, it was estimated that 22 U.S. veterans took their own lives every day. More recent estimates have brought that number down to 19 or 20, which is good, it’s moving in the right direction, but it’s still horrible for being far too high. Too many veterans get lost when they get back. They don’t get the support they deserve and are owed, with results that shouldn’t surprise anyone, yet we seem surprised every time it’s brought up. As a reason for being angry, I’d say that ranks right up there, but it’s a heartbroken anger, an anger blinded by tears because we should be better. We can’t put people in harm’s way and then abandon them, but we do, and that’s wrong.

Wrong Side of Heaven

We have reasons to be angry, and there are good ways that we can channel that anger, but we have to remember, ultimately, that anger is destructive. It’s not a friend. It’s fire. We can use it, we even need it sometimes to really push things forward, but it will get away if it can and, if it does, it will destroy everything in its path. If we let anger make our decisions, we tend to make very bad decisions. Bad for the world, bad for the people around us, but equally bad for the angry individual. We forget that sometimes. We feel the heat of what we believe to be righteous indignation and don’t realize it’s an inferno until we’re crispy. Sometimes you have to let the anger go. That’s what I’ve been working on learning for most of my adult life. Being angry was better than being suicidal, and probably saved my life, but being at peace is even better still. Be careful when fighting monsters. That’s very important to remember.

I Apologize

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