The other day I was walking with my dog in the neighborhood. We walk on a sidewalk. Next to the sidewalk is a thin strip of grass next to the road. On the other side are the lawns of the houses on the block.
One reason I walk my dog in the morning is so she can poop. My dog is a ten year old lab-border collie mix. She is a very beautiful dog (not just my opinion). We are used to people stopping and saying "Oh, can I pet your dog? She is so gorgeous".
On this particular day as we were walking a woman came out of her house and started down the pathway toward us. I said "Good morning".
She said "Get your dog off of my lawn".
My first thought was "This is not your lawn, it is a parking strip". I didn't say anything. My dog had already started to poop so I waited for her to finish.
Then the woman yelled at me "Clean up that poop!"
I yelled back at her "I'm going to clean it up!" I had my plastic bag out even as she was walking away.
I wanted to yell back at her "Get back here and watch me clean it up".
I was unreasonably angry and will spare you a long description of internal outrage.
What has this got to do with wise view?
The question that came to me as I silently snarling was "who is this that is so angry?"
I didn't calm down immediately, but, this question immediately brought a bit more mental space so that I could reflect on the intensity of my anger.
From a Buddhist point of view, this is not a simple question. Who is the self that feels so insulted? And, how am I feeding the flames of my rage with thoughts that I am generating, one after another?
One of the teenagers that I work with was recently telling me about how angry he gets too. He talked about his anger as being like a fire. I mentioned to him that I thought that certain kinds of thoughts can feed the fire. He said "like adding wood". I said "exactly". He said "I know what kind of thoughts those are" and then we talked about some of the ones that stoke his anger.
Then I said "can you imagine that there are different kinds of thoughts, thoughts that could also calm down your rage?" He said "Yeah, like water, to put out the fire". Yeah, I said, "wood thought and water thoughts. Makes a big difference which kind you put on an angry fire". You might think this is just a clever metaphor, but I insist that he and I can both feel the difference in our minds and bodies between wood thoughts and water thoughts. One kind makes the angry body/mind burn hotter (again, not a metaphor) while the other leads to calm and the capacity to think and reflect again.
I continue to puzzle over this koan "who is this that is getting so angry". There is not such an obvious answer.