Darkly Devotions

Lyric prose meditations that play with elements from evangelical Christianity, Buddhism, yoga, reiki, Tarot and “weird voodoo shit.”

~by Cindy Clem


Anger Chronicles: Part 3

Opening exercise:

Say “rowboat rowboat rowboat rowboat rowboat” quickly and out loud. If you’re not messing it up, you’re trying too hard.

Today’s Passages:

From Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck: “Now our encounters with life, with other people, with events, are like being bumped by an empty rowboat. But we don’t experience life that way. We experience it as though there are people in that other rowboat and we’re really getting clobbered by them.”

From howstuffworks.com: “Psychologists Dr. Leon James and Dr. Diane Nahl say that one factor in road rage is our tendency to concentrate on ourselves while dismissing the communal aspect of driving.”

True confession:

I can lie on my bed and observe my anger and call it “it” and pretend to feed it soothing raisin cakes, but the phrase “communal aspect of driving” makes me want to punch a hole in a wall.

It’s an inherited anger, from a raging driver of a father, but it’s an addictive anger, too, because it makes me thrill with power and pride, the superiority of a superior driver who can handle a car well and get where she’s going quickly despite slow or clueless dumbos[1]. I don’t want to get rid of this anger. I want to identify, claim, seize. I don’t want to share the road with anyone. I want to kill them all[2].

On a road near where I live, micromanagers have painted big white dots and posted signs that say, “Keep Min. 2 Dots Apart.” My anger at these dots is such that I speed up to a ONE-dot distance (haHA!) from the car in front of me. My rebellion will be noted, I am sure. Yes, she’s right, they will say. We were idiots with those dots. This is what happens when you work for the government.

It’s my inability to function in a community. Other people impede my progress, even when I have no goal but to move as fast and freely as I like. As much as I find comfort and truth in Buddhism, I don’t like that part about how we’re all connected. As much as the angel craze intrigued me, I lost interest when someone told me angels love a crowd. As much as I need and sometimes want a normal job, I can’t stomach how much time is wasted in meetings.

Road to Righteousness:

Self-righteous people suggest compassion for other drivers. I prefer to attempt Beck’s rowboat detachment[3]: imagine the other cars empty, moving along predetermined paths and myself the only sentient being for miles; imagine people as random events, objects around which I must maneuver. What happens to rage without a sentient target? Theoretically (see caveat), it dissipates. What I like about this method is that I can still feel superior, not through anger but detachment.


Rage without a sentient target will sometimes anthropomorphize objects into sentient enemies.

When they are not behaving in a way that pleases me, I have lashed out at uncooperative zippers, trash bags, desk drawers, and more.

Closing exercise:

For one week, don’t kill bugs. Hold your hands in prayer position and bow slightly toward them. Say, “Peace be with you.”



[1] As my father called them.

[2] Well, not really. Not so much anymore. I try to sound tough, but the rage has begun to feel more tiresome than rallying.

[3] I’m not actually sure this is what Beck would advocate.


Cindy Clem received her MFA in poetry in 2005 and has been writing non-fiction ever since. Her poems and essays have appeared (magically!) in Mid-American Review, The Normal School, Prairie Schooner, Memoir (and), Superstition Review, The Interrobang, Spittoon, and Michigan Quarterly Review (forthcoming).

  • Liz Master

    I also remember the term “imbecile” used rather frequently. I’d love to see how he would have handled the dots. 🙂