In Praise of Rage

On welcoming the most unlikely of muses

Prone to inertia, like other bodies moving through space, I find rage a loyal spur. As a writer, nothing drives me to the page as reliably as rage and its offshoots: annoyance, irritation, frustration, indignation, anger, and outrage—an interesting, late development that is etymologically distinct. From the French outr-, its original meaning was an act that went beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior. Now we also use it to name the emotion those very acts arouse: we are outraged against the outrages perpetuated against us and other, undeserving beings.

How seductive is the pleasure of being right, righteous, wronged. The heart is aflame, the muscles coiled, ready to strike. Deep in the brain, twin almonds called the amygdalae—dubbed the “fight cells” by neurobiologist David J. Anderson—spark into action. (In Anderson’s lab, male mice whose amygdalae were hyperstimulated by lasers attacked each other, their females, and even a rubber glove.)

Keep Reading Show less