Let’s visit one particular Mercury/Pluto issue today, and that’s the spirit of anger. Especially in speech, thought, or the mind.
This morning during my meditation and prayer I spent time reflecting on a struggle I’ve been having with being a parent, and that’s the issue of exasperation. This specific word came to me this morning from an inspired place, and it led me to do some investigating. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a good spirited person, but I’m also very driven, competitive, and I can be impatient and irritable. Since our little girl has been here in the world the presence of these qualities within myself are feeling different. It’s one of the scariest feelings I’ve ever had…to consider that my agitations or moods can adversely effect this very little and vulnerable being. Granted I’m not an abusive or terrible person, and again I’m usually in a really good place, but it doesn’t change the fact that the presence anger or irritation or impatience, as a man especially, feels suddenly like an ancient sickness that I am afraid to be participating in. It’s as though all the problematic parts of my personality are now mythic and ancestral and my performance as a person is now carrying a different weight than it was before. The word I came to was, again, “exasperation.” I feel exasperated by the idea that my faults are now not my own but potentially the inheritance of someone else.
So I looked up the word, and I found two interesting pieces of information. One is that the word “exasperate” means “to roughen,” or “to irritate to anger.” The word is also associated with vexing by bad spirits, or for the influence of irritation and anger to pass bad spirits to others. The association we make with air and respiration in the word calls these spiritual qualities to mind.
The next thing I found was a verse from the 6th chapter of Ephesians. An instruction to fathers, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, but guide them in the instructions and training of God.” The ancient Greek word that we translate into exasperate also meant “vexing.” Do not be “vexing” to your children. The idea of the verse being that anger and irritation are bad spirits that roughen others and transmit the wrong kind of influence.
I have to admit that as someone who appreciates archetypal relativism I find it troubling when thinking about Mercury/Pluto to contemplate the idea that anger is “bad.” That sharpness or aggressiveness in speech isn’t just a different aesthetic..like a different form of music or art. And maybe “bad” is a word simply exasperated by itself. Regardless, my edginess, especially my edginess of mood and speech is no longer capable of feeling so righteous about itself, like “It’s just an archetypal part of my personality, and they’re all divine and good.” Rather, when I see that my daughter cries if I get edgy or sharp tongued, I am transported into a different awareness. My first feeling is a very sacred feeling of guilt and shame. Not the “bad” guilt or shame, but the instructive guilt and shame: listen to yourself, hear yourself as she is hearing you. Do you really want to continue talking like this?”
No amount of excuses about the fact that she can only hear tone, not content, convince me that the way I’m talking is okay. Yet as an intellectual/sharp minded man I am terrified of the idea that without this aggressive mental edge, this sharp tongue, this sarcasm or cynicism, that I am not strong. That I am sacrificing something that makes me strong by becoming gentler in word, thought, and speech. That’s what my real resistance is about, if I’m being honest with myself. But my tiny daughter doesn’t see it like that at all. In fact I can tell she feels safer, held by something stronger, when I’m gentler, when I’m even more patient, and when I shelf the edgy exasperation…no matter how clever or smart I might feel I am.
The idea that we pass bad spirits through our agitation and anger is obvious to me when I see how irrationally and yet instinctively she experiences it. She becomes afraid, as though something is in the air. She doesn’t feel safe, as though something is in the air. She becomes agitated, as though exasperated by something traveling through the air.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children, but guide them…”
“Fathers, do not vex your children, but guide them…”
I recall being in many ayahuasca ceremonies, feeling helpless and infant like, and it’s helped me to put myself into her position. Being without a rational center, its good sounds and rhythm and warmth that guide us through the experience of fear or chaos. The trick is to realize that though we might feel like as we grow we gain a rational center and thus no longer need good sounds, warmth, and rhythm, we still do. The peaceful negotiation of life has everything to do with the continuation of these exact qualities, diversifying constantly and becoming breathless, invisible, and stronger…building what might generally be called a “heart center.” When we say life is meant to be lived mindfully, or like a prayer, I now see it in a completely different light. I see my daughter, and I see how sensitive she is, and I am on guard against exasperation.
So, if you have found yourself taking part in elements of communicative exasperation, imagine that you are strong enough to be kind, smart enough to be patient, and clever enough to be good humored. These are truths that become our birth rights once more when we practice them with the conviction of faith behind our back, gusting peace forward like a mighty wind. I hear it these days as a good spirited, “shhhh, shhhhh,” and the gentle sway of ocean waves that returns her to wide eyed peace.
Prayer: Take our minds, take our words, take our thoughts, and seal them in the gentle rock of your love.