“He who doesn’t know anger doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t know the immediate.”
While watching a Fourth of July celebrative baseball game it struck me we may not be honoring our flag appropriately. We have assumed that our left upper chest is where we place our hands during the anthem but now that we have discovered the seat of our emotions are lodged in the top of our heads we need to consider placing our paws atop our noggins. Hey, I’m not making this stuff up. We now need to imagine our love arrows are comprised of gray matter. So, when Valentine’s Day approaches in the future we’ll likely see only pasty characters on those Hallmark cards.
Saluting pennants is not what I have in mind for this essay. On the contrary, I just wanted to get your attention on a happy note before jumping into a heavier topic.
A recent stunning front-page Phoenix newspaper reported that a mother stabbed her three young children to death but she survived a suicide attempt. When such a heinous crime occurs I immediately recall a similar headline tragedy that occurred forty years ago in San Diego.
A Naval officer, his wife and two small children, began attending my church in Ocean Beach. One day he invited our family to his home for a barbeque and swim time with our six and eight-year-old children. He and his spouse were not only cordial but very engaging. A few months later the evening news reported that he killed his wife and two children with a hatchet. Like many neighbors living nearby they would claim the officer was very kind. His Navy colleagues also indicated he was a gentle man.
My first thought when I read about it was a self-centered notion. Had he made the decision to slay his loved ones while we were in that pool with him that day? I never quite got over that until I read about the Insula organ that contains arguably every in-depth emotion we possess. Scientists have known about it for decades but it emerged from darkness approximately 15 years ago by Antonio Demasio, a neuroscientist. He claimed the organ plays a starring role in our behavior.
The difficult part is finding out that profound compassion and intense rage may merge inside that organ. Mass shootings and domestic violence began to make sense to me to some degree when I learned about the Insula. Can beings manage to love profoundly and kill in the same moment?
What I have not fully grasped is how much of the rage is innate. If it is inherent then we have to wonder if we can blame nature. Do we accuse the evolutionary process for causing such disasters? Is it a fluke in our brains?
What do we do about capital punishment if the killings are even partially innate in the midst of the passion? How much of anger and rage modes are premeditated? Is it possible that deep anger has rational tendencies and assailants are partially or fully aware of what they are doing in their wrath and those in rage have no grasp of cognizance in those moments?
The road rage I’ve experienced were definitely not premeditated. I bypassed anger and went right to unconditional madness. What about instant gang rage? How many of their victims are total strangers that were not planned to be killed? If rage is innate should those bangers be treated differently than those who calculate slaying their preys?
What about suicides or family killings? Are there follow-ups to determine if the attackers assumed they would be with their loved ones in Heaven moments after their tragic deeds?
I decided to place my hand on the top of my head while drafting this essay to get some vibes that might help make sense out of this theme. Did it help?