Must Try Harder

Anger During a Protest By David Shankbone - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Unfortunately as an imperfect individual I find it necessary to question my own behaviour on a daily basis.  I wish I were perfect, saintly, good and Dalai Lama-ish. But I’m not.

I have always wanted to meet a “saint”, not out of any religious fervour (I don’t have any) but because I would like to see whether such a person actually exists and if he does, then how he behaves.

Anger and unfortunate emotion
Anger and unfortunate emotion

Does the saint ever get angry? Or even unreasonable? Does he ever harbour grudges or feel envy or jealousy? Is he or she ever less than perfectly kind, patient and loving? I would like to emulate any such person but alas I have feet of clay.

I do not often feel envy or jealousy these days (but have been guilty in the past as, probably, we all have).  But anger – yes, anger does tend to sneak up on me and sandbag me on occasions, much as I wish it were otherwise.

Or maybe it is more usually irritability. The “Grumpy Old Man” has become a much televised celebrity.  Shakespeare’s Enobarbus said of Cleopatra  “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety”.

In my case age has withered me considerably and I never possessed infinite variety anyway.

Terracotta figurine discovered at Myrina and dated to circa 300 BC, believed to represent Knemon, the titular character of Menander's Dyskolos
Terracotta figurine discovered at Myrina and dated to circa 300 BC, believed to represent Knemon, the titular character of Menander’s Dyskolos. By Rennett Stowe from USA – New Comedy Period (Ancient Greece), CC BY 2.0

I largely gave up writing about finance and trading since I was becoming very “withered” indeed. Sick of the rubbish being peddled by an industry with nobody’s good in mind other than its own. So I turned to matters of greater interest and importance to me: behaviour, people, the (non-existent) “soul”, the big questions in life, the universe and everything.

And yet when I read and comment on articles in the Guardian or the Independent or anywhere else I find myself battling with my own prejudice and intolerance.  When I become aware that I have been bitter, unreasonable or just plain vicious I try and remember to go back and change those offending and offensive sentiments – they were not meant, they sometimes just pop up out of ennui, tiredness, irritability.

I guess it is human nature to have disagreements but I am always puzzled over that biblical phrase “The meek shall inherit the earth”.

Was that Neville Chamberlain’s big mistake? Such tactics may have worked in the dissolution of the British Empire in India with Gandhi ‘s laudable non violent civil disobedience but would it have worked against Hitler? Presumably not.

I fear I am not meek nor ever have been. Sometimes I dearly wish I was. Perhaps as an ersatz Buddhist I will have a few more lifetimes to try and get it right.

But more seriously I do struggle on a daily basis with myself. I know I am a grumpy, puzzled and sometimes bitter old fool. Must try harder is, I suppose, all I can really say.

Hieronymus Bosch- The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things
Hieronymus Bosch- The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things

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