I have been struggling for a word to describe a condition that sometimes comes over me. I sometimes want to call it Rage, and in the shower earlier I initially thought it might’ve been Lust, and perhaps I ought to put the two together and call it RageLust. But then it occurred to me- it ought to be Fury. This is at least partially influenced by the Fury condition that you get in Final Fantasy 7, which builds your Limit Break meter faster.
If none of that made sense, I’m going for the 2nd meaning of Fury you get if you Google “define fury”. That is, “extreme strength or violence in an action or a natural phenomenon”, as in “the fury of a gathering storm”.
According to Etymonline:
fury (n.) late 14c., “fierce passion,” from Old French furie (14c.), from Latin furia “violent passion, rage, madness,” related to furere “to rage, be mad.” Romans used Furiæ to translate Greek Erinyes, the collective name for the avenging deities sent from Tartarus to punish criminals (in later accounts three in number and female). Hence, figuratively, “an angry woman” (late 14c.).
Yeah, punishing criminals with avenging deities is the vibe I’m going for.
Anyway, some context. Yesterday, I was taking a long walk with my wife to go and meet my parents. Along the way, I passed by the house that I grew up in- which we sold about two years ago because we couldn’t quite afford it anymore. The person who’s bought it since has renovated it, and while it looks a lot “cleaner” because of all the fresh paint, it also looks a lot less charming. A lot colder. And I felt a certain rage in me at the desolation of my childhood home.
Now, I immediately juxtapose these visceral, from-the-gut reactions with some calm thoughts. Nobody is entitled to anything. Earth will eventually crumble, as will the rest of the universe. A house is just a thing. There are billions of humans who’ve never had the chance to live in a nice house, and perhaps never will. So my rage isn’t grounded in any sort of ethical or moral calculus. It’s purely reactionary, purely relative. I once had something that I didn’t appreciate while I had it, and it bothered me to see it being “mistreated” in my eyes.
I have felt similarly on other occasions, when I feel like something was being “mismanaged” or “misunderstood”, but I didn’t have any power or authority to do anything about it. In moments like those I feel incredibly powerless, and for a moment I regret not living a life of jealous, catty rage- because I hadn’t prepared myself. It’s like being a calm, happy-go-lucky civilian town and seeing your family and friends get bullied by a neighbouring military town. You realise that the world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and that might makes right. You aren’t power-hungry, you don’t wish dominance over others. You just want to stop being pushed around. You just want to stop feeling powerless as you watch people with more power crash around clumsily and damage the things you care about, even if these things are completely arbitrary and will eventually be dust.
It fills me with Fury to think about how families ill-treat their children. It fills me with Fury to think about all the injustice in the world, even though I know that it’s unlikely that I’ll ever do anything significant about it on a global scale. It feels me with Fury when I witness people get bullied but I can’t really do very much about it. In those moments I wish I were stronger. I wish I had put in the effort that my ChillBro inner self didn’t bother with, because all will end anyway, no point worrying so much about anything.
Choosing To Be Stronger
I feel a shift in my fundamental perspective on that. I feel like I’ve been here before. I know that it won’t last, because it never lasts, so I’m writing this in an attempt to calcify it at least a little bit. This is a recurring pattern that has recurred enough that I ought to do something about it. I’m tired of being weak when it counts. I’m tired of being powerless when it counts. People don’t appreciate kindness and mercy unless you have the strength and/or power to enforce real, credible threats. Speak softly and carry a big stick- I’ve never bothered with the big stick. This has proven over and over again to be really inefficient. I feel the same way about quitting smoking.
A series of suboptimal outcomes makes you realise there must be a superior global outcome, or the effort required for the high road is almost definitely less bad. It’s when you spend so much time in Mixed Feelings Park that you realise finally that you might as well go through the Dark Woods and get to the Happy Playground. (If none of that made sense, read How To Beat Procrastination by Wait But Why.
Eventually you realise that working out and staying fit is cheaper and happier than being an unfit slob. Doing your homework is cheaper and easier than panicking every day. Not smoking is happier and healthier than smoking. The problem with all of those things isn’t that the better path isn’t obviously better, but that the short term things seem to be too costly in the short run and don’t seem to have much clear payoff in the long run. The main problem for me when it comes to procrastination, etc might be a lack of faith. I don’t trust myself. I can’t trust myself. The data has shown that I am an untrustworthy person. Any big plans will definitely fail. So I might as well just do whatever will straightforwardly give me immediate pleasure, like cigarettes.
But I’ve done that a couple of times now. I’ve repeated that cycle a couple of times now, and each time I do it I end up pretty miserable and upset. I convince myself that misery is normal in life, and that I’m always going to be anxious and scared and unable to trust myself and dependent on stupid shitty things like cigarette and internet addiction but this really isn’t the case! Or rather, it’s so bad that it’s worth fighting against even if you don’t know whether or not you’ll make it out the other end. I’m tired of living with all these chains. But I also recognise that thrashing against the chains is useless, you have to use the Fury and direct it at a very specific link of a very specific chain and cut that. And that gives you more freedom. You have to be specific. You have to be precise. You have to be directed. I am not very good at any of those things. I am not very good at managing my own time. I’m not very good at breaking down big things into littler things. But I will have to do this now.
I’ve come to realise that cigarettes suck. They give you a very short term sense of control over your own emotional state, your own brain state. You get to excite yourself or calm yourself down in a couple of minutes, it’s very short simple and easy to complete. But ultimately the habit controls you. The highs get less high. I can see how I might fall back into smoking though. I would fall back into smoking if I lost sight of my grander vision, if I decided that fuck it, even though cigarettes suck, they’re familiar and reliable. It’s all a reliability game. It boils down to how much you can trust yourself. And trusting yourself is something you develop
Wow, this entire landscape is a lot more complex than I was hoping it was going to be when I started writing this. But that’s clearly obvious on hindsight. If it were simple I’d already have solved it a long time ago, as would billions of other people. This is a hard, challenging problem with dangerous loops and traps and illusions for you to get suckered by. Basically I need to
– keep myself motivated by reminding myself of what I’m fighting for, what I’m fighting against, who I want to be, who I don’t want to be.
– I then need to take lots of really simple, short actions that are quick and easy to do, to prove to myself that I can actually be a trustworthy person- I just have bad history but I deserve a second chance, and I need to start with the really simple things.
This word vomit is one such thing today. After this I’m going to clear out my one-tab. Then I’m going to refocus and maybe do another vomit. This Fury cannot subside too soon, not until I have done at least some of the things I know that I must do but I have lacked the energy to do for so long. Not now. Not anymore. It’s been enough.