02:06:12 am on
Thursday 23 Mar 2017

My Bitter Half
M Alan Roberts

I wanted to spit directly in his face and he was only trying to help me. He was answering the question that I, as his student, was presenting to him. I asked him a basic question during a test in 8th grade algebra. I felt the test question had been phrased in an unclear manner and wanted to be sure. He always penalized me on my tests because I didn't demonstrate step-by-step solutions. Many times, I would just write the answer if I saw it in my head. However, the role of a middle school mathematics teacher is not to reward free thought; it is to reward disciplined, logic-based procedure.

Standing by his side, in complete subservience, in a hushed silence during test time, I found myself drifting as he explained, in his ever-so-benevolent manner, the solution to my quarry. He was a good math teacher, Mr. Palaggi, obviously an Italian and, in my case, a very gentle man. I really liked him a lot. But still, I wanted to spit in his face. As he patiently explained away to one of his most prized students, me, he didn't know my cruel thoughts. It was my bitter side acting, or trying to act out.

Of course, I did not spit in the face of this kind-hearted man who only wished to instruct the young people concerning the world's most-true science. I calmed my bitter half enough to understand the hints to solution that he granted me and went quietly back to my desk to resume testing - after respectfully thanking him. I aced that test - like I aced most tests, And, of course, he penalized me wee bit for skipping a few steps here and there, but he knew that the answers were coming from me - not from my neighbor's paper.

As I proceeded through life after eight-grade math, I found myself studying Actuarial Science at the Ohio State University. Insurance mathematics is a notoriously challenging undergraduate degree to pursue. I was an honor student almost every quarter. Still, my bitter half was at work. When I would consult with professors during their office hours, I saw myself doing all types of near-violent acts to them. Sometimes I wanted to spit on them. Sometimes I dreamed of smashing their desks while they taught me. And other times, I wanted to just give them a good smack - right to the theorem-thumping chops!

Now I realize that this is improper. I always realized that it was improper; that's why I never actually acted on my thoughts. Still later in life, as I would be discussing various business deals with others, even old ladies, I would sense my bitter half rising within me, trying to entice me to adopt the ways of violence and disrespect. Sometimes I felt myself about to laugh as I envisioned the surprise that these poor people would experience when I performed my blatant acts. I always managed to shove it back down and remain focused on the tasks at hand.

Still later, I grew tired of these feelings and started to explore the meaning of them. Why was it that every time I had close communication with an individual, I would drift away and dream of spitting on them, smacking them, yelling at them or breaking their possessions? I never have discovered where the thoughts come from - I just call it my bitter half. Through contemplating the lessons taught by the Buddha, I have developed the ability to intervene when my bitter half tries to surface. Instead of drifting and dreaming of degrading others, I now remember that I wish to only exercise compassion and understanding. That's better.

Oh, my bitter half is still in here. That's for sure. I know because I am not 100% successful at thwarting it. There are times when I forget to check myself and I act in ways that I instantly regret - knowing that I have just decreased my karmic value. And so I have to remind myself - to be aware - to be better, not bitter. Those who teach the ways of wisdom will all tell you that you do not have to punish yourself harshly when your bitter half gets out of control. They say to just realize it and move forward. There is no need to continually rehash the event. The essence of wisdom is to become aware of all things at all times, especially those that you can exercise some degree of control over - like your emotions, thoughts, words and actions.

By taking the time to practice awareness, you empower yourself to spread understanding and empathy for others and for yourself. That in turn can save the people on the planet from further drowning in their own envy, anger, malevolence - and bitterness. Simply being aware of being bitter makes you better.

M Alan Roberts is a radical thinker. He has a gimlet eye for injustice, much as did Frederich Engels, a century and a half before. Still, Roberts finds a way to write effective SEO copy. This suggests both sides of his brain, his mind, work equally well.

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