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Rails - For more than trains and fences.

In many cities, there are light rail systems for interurban service. The trains, of course, run on steel rails. A rail fence is constructed of lengthy narrow wood pieces. A person who rails against supposed or real opposition has something in common with the rails that are used for a means of transportation or for fences, in that rails and the act of railing are linear, and narrowly focused. One who rails usually directs anger at specific targets, whether it be persons, concepts, or obstacles. Metal rails serve as directional guides so that trains can go safely from one place to another, and wood fences identify and delimit yards and lands for their various uses. Anger, however, even when it is aimed at a specific target, can easily go off in unintended directions and out of appropriate bounds.

All strong feelings provide us with energy that we can apply in responding to whatever initiates them. However, feelings, especially anger, are powerful, and do not of themselves seek the use of reasoning as a balance. If anger were a person, it could rightly say about consultation with reason, “Not my job.” We, who have feelings and who also have powers of reflection and reasoning, make the decisions about what kind of responses we will make to what others say or do, and also to our own thoughts and ideas. Our feelings do not make decisions, and neither do our minds. We do.

Strong feelings need both kinds of rails: tracks to keep them moving in the direction of our choice, and fences to keep them clearly focused in accord with our values. Easily stated, and not easy to do, though through practice, we gain facility in exercising the trust and love that enable us to make good use of rails. We want to arrive peacefully at the destination of our choice, and within the bounds that keep everyone else safe.

Reflecting on any recent experience in which a strong feeling has been clearly present, is a helpful means for consciously improving our treasured desire not to be reactive, but responsive to whatever affects us. A feeling might have been occasioned by something someone did, or that we hear or read about, or a memory of an injustice or hurt. We do not use reasoning to make the feeling go away, for every feeling has cause for being present. Rather, we seek to understand what, in us, has been affected by whatever we perceived when we became angry, fearful, or hurt. If we find, for example, that a clear injustice has taken place, we can consider whether we wish to say or do something about it, or if it would be counter-productive from our perspective. When we recognize that our pride has been injured, we might decide that we can live with that. If we realize that frustration correctly names our feeling, we might ask ourselves whether, or to what degree, we really believe that the world should be in agreement with whatever we happen to want or believe.

The safest way to handle the power of a strong feeling is to acknowledge it for what is, a feeling, and to determine as best we can how to direct that energy. An honest question and a significant expression of our spirituality in deciding upon a response in which a strong feeling is involved: “Is there anything that I need to do or say?”

Rails are useful for more than trains and fences.     

Last Updated 9/25/2021