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That point between rage and serenity

CHANNEL SURFING - Althea Lauren Ricardo -

Some time ago, I had difficulties dealing with a colleague I'll call Marco. Marco was too harsh on people, and his relationship with us,his teammates, became strained. It wasn't clear where the angry feelings were coming from, but he was often rude and hurtful. Finally, I decided to talk to him. What a disaster it turned out to be!

Marco was alternately belligerent and patronizing, and when I extended my help, he snapped that he could find it somewhere else, with people he actually liked. I'm not the world's most patient person to begin with, so instead of pushing my agenda, I decided to just let him be. I don't know where he is now; after that meeting, he sulked through the next few months and then quit. From time to time, though, I still wonder if he has been able to get past what made him that way.

When I talked to another friend, a psychologist, about him, my friend said something I often recall when I cross paths with mean people: "He must be an unhappy person. Happy people just don't behave that way."

These words came back to me as I watched the story of Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and their mutant friends unfold in X-Men: First Class, one of the many film adaptations of the huge X-Men franchise. Clearly, Erik is a hurting man, and to be trained to amplify your power with pain and anger, after your mother was killed because you couldn't unleash it at will, no wonder he is a complete emotional mess.

Charles, on the other hand, seems like a decent man who grew up in a more stable environment. If he was able to love Raven like a sister growing up, then it's but natural that he would love the students of his future school that way. Perhaps he didn't have that one big event that damaged him the way his mother's murder damaged Erik? I don't follow the comic books, so I'm still missing a lot of the back story.

Having a painful history or not, though, by the end of the film, all the mutants had a shared make-or-break moment: That of watching Russian and American ships rain missiles on them despite their—at least, Charles' side—having just averted another nuclear war. It made Charles even more determined to protect mutants, while it broke what little remained of Erik's trust in humans.

And still the mutants chose two sides: the peaceful path and the violent one.

After watching X-Men, I thought of Marco and the other people who had been inexplicably mean towards me and others, and I wondered about the big event that had them acting out their own hurts and resentments by being mean towards others. Then, I wondered about mine, and how, despite major disappointments, I'm still on the peaceful path.

Nobody has a perfect life, and not everyone sees every possible event that can happen in the same way. Some people survive emotional tsunamis, some people get hurt with the littlest things. It's not easy to say how people get scarred—or what it is that scarred them.

But in X-Men: First Class, we see that part of Erik's problem is that he held on to his anger and pain because for the longest time, it was the only key he had that would unlock his power. Anger and pain became essential to his identity. How can you blame him? If staying angry appears to you to bring out the best you can be, you'd use it too. And nobody was there to show him a different way until he met Charles, who told him something Buddhists would also say: "True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity." It's about the middle way."

To be continued.

Email your comments to alricardo@yahoo.com. You can also visit my personal blog at http://althearicardo.blogspot.com. You can text your comments again to (63)917-9164421.

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