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Ursula K. Le Guin on How to be Angry

“There is a time for anger,” wrote The New York Times donned America’s greatest living science fiction writer, Ursula K. Le Guin, in an article titled Anger from her 2010 collection of essays, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters.

All through the article, Le Guin explores anger as a necessary tool, especially in the fight towards the emancipation of women in the society. She, however, posited severally that as useful as anger is, it’s beautiful only when it isn’t allowed to persist beyond its usefulness. She wrote:

Anger continued on past its usefulness becomes unjust, then dangerous. Nursed for its own sake, valued as an end in itself, it loses its goal. It fuels not positive activism but regression, obsession, vengeance, self-righteousness. Corrosive, it feeds off itself, destroying its host in the process.

As much as anger is useful in such cases as the fight for justice, Le Guin noted that it could also be extremely dangerous if its flame is allowed to burn too intensely or if its growth is not totally stunted as soon as it’s purpose has been achieved.

Certainly an outburst of anger can cleanse the soul and clear the air. But anger nursed and nourished begins to act like anger suppressed: it begins to poison the air with vengefulness, spitefulness, distrust, breeding grudge and resentment, brooding endlessly over the causes of the grudge, the righteousness of the resentment. A brief, open expression of anger in the right moment, aimed at its true target, is effective — anger is a good weapon. But a weapon is appropriate to, justified only by, a situation of danger.

Perhaps the problem is this: when threatened, we pull out our weapon, anger. Then the threat passes or evaporates. But the weapon is still in our hand. And weapons are seductive, even addictive…

Le Guin rounded up the article with an inherently persuasive inquiry about how best to utilize anger as a tool:

What is the way to use anger to fuel something other than hurt, to direct it away from hatred, vengefulness, self-righteousness, and make it serve creation and compassion?

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