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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

ALL THE RAGE: The driver cuts you off, and your heart rate goes up to 180 beats per minute. He gives you the finger, and your blood pressure likewise shoots up, 220 to 130 or even higher, compared to normal readings of 120 to 80. You're not going to let him (or her) get away with it, and with that sentiment your body uses up sugar extremely fast creating a sugar deficiency. As a result you find yourself literally shaking in anger. There's nothing you can do about it, don't you see? You're in the grip of "intermittent explosive disorder." This just happens to you, it's beyond your control, you're not responsible for your actions. As many as 16 million Americans "have had" this disorder, according to the latest survey conducted by the class of persons known as social science researchers, persons who have way too much time on their hands (hence their propensity to engage in stupidity in the name of science) and who at the same time are constantly busy (conducting said stupidity). We're talking about garden variety road rage, by the way. The solution to which, say the latest social-science geniuses, is taking antidepressants. See, you go all ballistic in traffic because you're "depressed." Anger is beyond your control - did I mention that? But of course that's nonsense, it isn't remotely true. Speaking of research, there's some very good research — solid, grounded, replicated — that makes clear that rage is optional, not inevitable. The subject of that research is meditation. You don't have to be a fan of Eastern religions to take seriously the empirical evidence that sitting quietly daily for just 20 minutes or so, while noting the rising and falling of your breath, can significantly expand your capacity not to be at the effect of the passing show of emotions, thoughts, and sensations that might otherwise seem to "target" you in moments of stress. It's about witnessing the present moment as something that just is. Being skillful in the face of challenging circumstances. Self-mastery. The concept is anathema to the social-science left, with its endless array of arguments for the proposition that humans are shaped — oppressed, actually— by external circumstances, exclusively so. Over time, that belief becomes a self-validating species of victimhood. The belief that self discipline is learned — well, that's likewise self-validating — and with it comes the recognition that we humans tend to get good at what we actually do, especially what we do repeatedly. We live in a time when our culture gives us lots of encouragement to practice pretending that someone else is responsible for the way we behave. The cultural left in America has become the preeminent repository of mastery in that regard. Listen to Air America. Read left-wing bloggers. Tune into the hatred of Bush and the left's unbridled contempt for American values and institutions. Lefties are good at rage because they spend so much time practicing it. It's a perverse skill set, but mastery none the less.