The Need for Action and Vengeful Fantasies

We need to act; otherwise, our mind will have its way with us, seeking its own, second-rate satisfactions while tearing us apart.

When someone pushes us, we need to learn to push back in the right way. We had better not educate ourselves to give in. If we don’t push back in the right way, then we’ll fantasize about hurting him or, even stranger, we’ll fantasize about hurting someone else, someone unrelated to the one who originally injured us. Worse, we may become what we despised.

If we remain unconscious of this pattern, we’ll continue to replicate it. We’ll be angry with those we love when the perpetrator is someone else, someone somewhere else. We’ll carve lines in our skin. We’ll get ulcers in our bellies and ruin our digestions. We’ll constantly daydream of being free without knowing why we daydream of being free. The clouded mind will have its desires fulfilled unlovingly.

All because we didn’t learn to act in the scene; didn’t learn to speak up for ourselves; didn’t have the courage to talk back. We caved in and grew sad at our depletion, angry in our false helplessness.

But you’ll tell me: “Come on, man. If we always talk back, speak up for ourselves, act with great sharpness, won’t we be retaliating? Making matters worse? Doing unto them what they have done unto us? What you offer is a blood feud. Isn’t it far better to cool down, stand back, go away, try to understand ‘where they’re coming from’ and ‘why they’re hurting,’ and come back and ask them, ‘what’s wrong, brother?'”

Yes, sometimes but often this involves overlooking something deep within ourselves: it’s that there’s something about ourselves that we’ve failed to feel, recognize, and reflect upon. When you do only this, you’re leaving yourself out of this, and in so doing you’re leaving yourself open to all sorts of vengeful fantasies.

Instead, I advocate our following a “middle path” between softness and aggression, between wimpy non-violence and exceptional, awful violence. This is what Laozi and Christ both sought to teach us. Call it firmness. We need to be firm with others. How? By standing firm, sticking up for ourselves, raising our voices, showing that we have a Real Presence. We neither flee the scene nor fight back. We stand in it and find a way of channeling our power. We speak up. We really feel and push back (though with a different energy) at that violent force. Here is Matthew 5:38-39

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Notice Christ’s claim. Do not follow Hammurabi’s Code and seek redress by retaliating (“An eye for an eye… a tooth for a tooth”). If he yells and screams, do not you also yell and scream. But Christ does not say: well, walk away then. No no no! Do not resist evil, he says, but if he should strike out violently, stay and show him how disgraceful that action was. Reveal to him the ugliness of that wrong. Stay put. Be strong and stay put. Show yourself as a living power. Speak out–out of love, self-respect, proper pride. Be a different source of energy. Be a force for living.
Spinoza’s great insight is that we must act or grow sad. Only, act as such a force. Be firm yet gentle in deed and your vengeful fantasies shall, in time, fall away.
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