Despite how often I display it, or state it outright, people keep forgetting I’m an ass. I can be kind, generous, funny, grateful, compassionate, understanding, empathetic, and comforting, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I am an ass.
Some people talk about shadow-work and Left Hand Path in terms almost as nauseating and cloying as the love and light crowd, so I don’t describe myself as embracing the dark and negative as wholesome. I just say I can be an ass.
I don’t think it’s healthy to be happy all the time. Life wouldn’t be as sweet without some sorrow. Creativity and intellect have a definite connection to melancholia and depression. I have no more desire to live in a cheery Prozac-flavored world than I have in living in some affected, gothic twilight. Most of life is kind of middling; it’s what happens to us while we we wait for something more exciting to come along. That’s ok by me.
So while I don’t rock heavy eyeliner and write poetry about how my heart is a bat-filled cave, I do defend the worth of the negative things in life. Jealousy, anger, violence, and sorrow all have their place.
Jealousy is one of the most instructive emotions humans ever experience. Paying close attention to our jealousy will teach us a lot about what we truly want and desire. People say you shouldn’t be jealous. I say BS. Jealousy is one of the most useful tools you own. Acting out your jealousy inappropriately is the problem. Recognizing that you want a monogamous relationship is good, and setting your cheating husband’s car on fire is bad. Both of these are the result of experiencing jealousy, but while the former is good, the latter is a really poor expression of your emotions. Does the latter example prove jealously is bad? No, it proves that some people have no self-control.
Anger is an incredibly useful tool. It can shake us out of apathy, it can fuel our creativity, it can embolden us to speak truth, it can energize us and it can make us feel more alive. Repressing anger is one of the worst things you can do, but expressing anger doesn’t mean you resort to abusive behavior. We have this phobia over expressing anger. You don’t want to get known as an “angry person.” Everyone needs to be “nice” all the time. I say BS. Your anger is your tool, it is as righteous and holy as any other part of you. Expressing it without harming others is a good thing. Venting it safely is a good thing. Maybe that means you have a heart to heart talk, or maybe it means you split a cord of wood, or maybe it means you show your anger through non-verbal cues, through a look or gesture. Sometimes that guy on the interstate needs to be flipped the bird to get your anger across. There’s nothing wrong with anger.
Sorrow is frowned upon by Epictetus, by the positive thinking crowd, and by folks who dislike negative vibes. But expressing grief is a good thing. It is good for you. It is healthy. I rarely cry, yet in the past month I’ve done a good bit of sobbing, sometimes over a drink. To mourn, to keen, to ache and to express the agony of the soul is all good healthy stuff. Taken in moderation, without allowing it to become a crutch or excuse, sorrow is cleansing and helpful. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
Everything about being human is holy and sacred. Being human doesn’t mean being “good” or “nice” or “positive.” Not at all. Being authentically human means behaving in negative ways. It means you will be sad, violent, angry, sorrowful, jealous, scared, impatient, anti-social, and other negative things from time to time. You will be deathly quiet. You will scream. You will lay cold, silent, and still. You will throw yourself into a violent frenzy of activity. You will engage in activities that some people may consider unproductive. You will be human.
And if you are anything like me, you will be an ass sometimes. You won’t let an illogical statement slide. You will take people at face value. You will point out the flaw in the plan. You won’t count on positivity or some false ideal. You will consider all the ways things can go wrong. You will be an ass. That is ok. Asses are holy and sacred, too.
Don’t let anyone treat you badly for being human. For being angry or sad or jealous or violent. If you aren’t hurting other people, and you aren’t harming yourself, then your feelings are natural and you’re probably expressing them well. There is nothing wrong with being human. Don’t ever forget that.