Denying the Upside of Anger


Leonard Zwelling

            Even my
kids say it. I am one angry dude and it all comes through in the blog. And they
are not alone. Friends from across the country who read the blog who are
unaware of what is happening at Anderson describe my basic posture in the blog
as angry and the basic tone as pained. Guess what? They’re right!

according to my dictionary is a strong feeling of displeasure. My spiritual teacher
Stephen Levine describes it more as dissatisfaction. If satisfaction is the
absence of desire, then anger must be filled with desire for something other
than what is. I believe this is true. Bobby Kennedy modified the line from
George Bernard Shaw when he said “ you see things and you say why. But I dream
things that never were and say why not?”

            But the old
timers at Anderson did see those things about which we now only dream and that
makes us even more angry for we know these dreams are not theoretical but can
really happen. They did. They were. We lived them.

            Anger can
certainly lead to frustration and low morale. It is reasonable to assume that
anger is contributing to those poor results obtained in survey after survey
about how the faculty members feel about working at Anderson today. Uniformly,
this has been interpreted as a bad thing. I disagree.

            As a New
Yorker (anger is in the DNA) who lived through 25 years of Duke basketball
before he saw a national championship and who paid way too much to have his
kids go to the first World Series game in Texas to watch the Astros tank yet
again, I understand anger and dissatisfaction. The anger in the body faculty of
Anderson is far more profound and again I refer to my teacher Stephen Levine
and his teachings about anger. As Stephen points out, anger is not intrinsically

            My past
boss David Hohn prided himself in never getting angry and I believe him. But I
certainly could not emulate him in this and many other ways. My favorite leader
in the good anger category is one you might not consider that I would be attracted
to right away. That would be Jesus of Nazereth. I am a big believer in WWJD,
what would Jesus do, but that is not always turning the other cheek.

            In his
wonderful new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazereth, Reza Aslan
uses the Gospels and the historical record to piece together a picture of what
the man Jesus might have encountered in his world and why that man gave birth
to the most potent religious force ever known. In the book, a Jesus who is a
man of the people is described, but that man eventually wrecks havoc on the
capital city, its political order and its Temple and pays the ultimate price. He
made people angry. He was angry at what he saw around him in Jerusalem and at
the Temple. But the idea that Jesus was always a peaceful man, an idea Martin
Scorsese dismissed in The Last Temptation of Christ, is replaced by a much more
complex picture of a man leading a movement who was—angry.

            Recently, I
have received emails expressing concern that some faculty who so articulately
expressed themselves and their pain when the Chancellor was here later recanted
and apologized to Dr. DePinho. Maybe they did. That does not make their pain
and anger, so powerfully expressed before their back-pedaling, any less
compelling or legitimate.

            The faculty
members are angry. They ought to be. The place they love is taking turns in
directions that no one would have considered 20 years ago and the faculty
members are not at all sure these are wise decisions.  Furthermore, most of these decisions are made
by those in high positions but with little credibility in the area of academic
cancer research or patient care. Thus, the faculty are not at all satisfied
with its leadership. In other words, they are angry.

challenge to you angry folks is to direct that constructively not
destructively. Many say I have done the latter, but I don’t think so. Many
things of which I have been accused including leaking data to the media are
simply untrue. Dr. DePinho himself was convinced I had sent data from the Senate
survey to the Cancer Letter. To his credit, he accused me of it to my face and I
forthrightly corrected his error. Of course, it did make me angry. As you can

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *