On October 20th, 1899 a shipment of rice was offloaded in Honolulu from the ship America Maru. Ordinarily this event would not have entered the historical records except for the fact that its shipment had also been carrying rats who rapidly spread the bubonic plague throughout the Chinatown area! The Board of Health’s response was to begin controlled burning of anything which might have been contaminated including garbage and even buildings! Unfortunately on January 20th, 1900 the winds picked up and the controlled burn morphed into an uncontrollable firestorm which raged for seventeen days, scorching 38 acres of Honolulu and rendering 7000 Chinatown residents homeless! This event has come to be known as the Great Honolulu Chinatown Fire of 1900.
Fire can’t be quenched until it has consumed that which it feeds upon, whether it be paper, wood or even the human heart! Rage is a fire that consumes the heart and makes relationship with others impossible. A friend of mine who was living with a great amount of stress finally flipped out one day when someone used the wrong tone of voice with him! Grabbing a hammer he attacked the offender’s car, smashing every window, denting and cracking every available surface on the car! Visiting him later in the Chatham County jail with a solid one-inch piece of Plexiglas between us in case anything went wrong, I asked him why he did what he did. He responded, “This sudden tsunami of rage engulfed me! I felt myself disappear and someone else took my place! When the rage was spent I couldn’t believe what they said that I had done but the evidence of the ruined car was right there in front of me!”
We can read as many books on relationships as we can get our hands on but day-to-day living is not so neat and tidy! Relationships with others can be difficult as we struggle to understand ourselves and to transform our base-urges into ways of being which enable our relationships rather than destroying them! When things get bad enough we may even resort to going to church in order to ask the Divine for help! Well the Divine is not confined to churches! Wherever people gather together for good purpose is sacred, whether it is in a church, in an ‘ohana living room or in a coffeeshop! The key element to its sacredness is the presence of others. It is in other-ness that we get to experience the Divine on its own terms. It is the coming together which enables the Divine’s presence to be experienced and to be manifested! The Divine is relational by nature.
There is a school of thought which posits it is good to express anger and even rage! The thinking is this cleanses the impulse from the system. My experience of myself has been the opposite! The more I indulge in anger then the quicker to anger I become! There are certain things which we should not play with and anger is one of them! To indulge in anger to any degree is to flip matches at a can of gasoline trying to see how close you can get before it catches! Eventually it will get away from you, consuming you and your relationships as well!