Anger

It made us sick. Made people we loved poor and lonely and dead. But still we nurtured it, we worshipped it. It stopped us from creating and it stopped us from collaborating. We stopped believing we could be healed and we danced through the dark shadows of it’s fires.

Anger. What did the word conjure up for me? It sounded different then. It didn’t sound like weakness. I remember the feeling. Fire in my eyes, I suppose. A deceptively clear sense of purpose. Blood up and ready to, what, throw my hurt a little further?

I don’t like to think about it. The word for me conjures up feelings of loneliness. A drumbeat that recruited my whole body and mind to the message, the call of worthlessness. A demagogue that personalised it’s sermons to my circumstances, that showed me my hurt and used it to justify hurting others. Anger, like hurt, needed me to survive. It said ‘Do this and you will be free’. Anger was a lie.

Yes, anger was a spirit that needed our bodies to survive. It needed our permission to enter but once there it would possess or colleagues, our friends, our family, a stranger on the street. It would distract us long enough for a punch or an ill-considered word and then it used our names as leverage to summon every spirit it knew to every body it found. It whispered demonic words about pride and the worthlessness of others. In this way anger ran governments. In this way the fates of nations were decided. The system stayed stable so long as anger stayed hidden: you could never be angry at anger.

Then suddenly there was forgiveness. At first, dictators called it terrorism; no more hatred of other states to keep them in power. It began as an experiment then gradually became a way of life. Tolerance replaced fear and, rowdy and impatient for real change, love replaced tolerance. Religion wasn’t an excuse for violence; religious politicians refused to vote for any law that left the world as broken as it was or blessed themselves more than others. We sold our weapons in order to fight poverty – a pitchfork for a ploughshare. The security of nations depended not upon destruction but mutually assured compassion.

Love at great cost, grace with no price. I am old enough to remember it. No transition – just chaos. The old order gone – beautiful, beautiful chaos. All of this started from just one act.

There were skeptics. Maybe somewhere there still are. Secret labs in remote locations with luddites working in candlelight trying to find something – anything – that anger can do better than grace.

Now we have a statue in the palace of our government called Anger, depicting a bellowing old man with a knife in his side. One hand raised in a fist, the other holding the knife in. He stands in the middle of the gardens with his back to the sun. Every day groups of children come to see the statue and their teachers ask them the same questions – where is wisdom in the picture? Does the man look happy? How can we help him?

By the statue sits a plaque and on that plaque are written a list of grievances in capital letters, each of them scored out. At the end of the list are the words: Anger is hate. And hatred is never the start of something.

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The Gospel of Thomas

[Stage split in two. Left: Thomas, sitting distracted, stressed, occasionally joyful, looking frantically around but often gazing on the stage to the right, the only character able to see it. Right: Cave. Mary, Joseph, others crowded around a manger. Jesus is presumably in the manger, but not visible to audience, only to Thomas.]

Thomas          This wis whur it aw startit, whur it first began. Lang afore thon ben an thon upper room, afore…Jerusalem…Meickle room fir a king, but palace wouldna hae fit quite either. Animals an straw, heh, a cold october nicht. Him as a bairn. Och, a bairn! I cannae even think aboot it.

[pausing, looking at the scene. After a few seconds:]

Ach, I wish I could a seen this.

[Right: gathering tightens around manger]

Ah’d settle fir bein the donkey or straw, I’d even be chased oot my faimily a shepherd if it meant ah coulda bin there…Held Him as a child. And kent He wid…Kent He wis my-

[Left: Shout from off stage. Right: Scene darkens, dream over, gone from sight.]

[Left: Peter rushes on to stage]

Peter               He’s going! Come on!

Thomas, still in soliloquy I didna….believe at first. [looking slightly over to Peter] I didna understand jis richt now. Couldna yet jalouse what it a meant an mon Ah wis angry…

Peter Come! On! He’s going to the Gentiles.

Thomas [out of soliloquy, suddenly shouting] Tae the GENTILES?! Are you fir real? Why no jis say he’s gangin aff tae prison, or mebbe aff tae meet the lions? That’s where we’re gaun tae if its up tae they gentiles!

Peter It doesn’t matter what you say he’s gone already. We’ve got to go!

Thomas Except thon animals wull pit us in the cage. Whit is He thinkin?

Peter               I…

Thomas          Ah’ve geein him everyhin.

Peter               So have I!

Thomas          Then why follow him there?

Peter               Because I have nothing else to lose! And you have heard what he has said. We’ve both seen what he has done. He put his hand on a man and healed him. He put your hand on a man and healed them. I know. You think about everything he says, over and over. Precious words. Special words. You can feel it can’t you? He’s all we’ve got.

Thomas          We’ve naehin else.

Peter               Nothing.

Thomas          [resigned] So lets dee wi him then. Lets jis keel oer and be done wi it.

[Thomas grabs Peter’s hand]

Thomas          [in soliloquay]: And that wis when athin changed. When everythin happened and everythin changed.  [looking over to where the nativity scene was, then leaves with Peter]

 

 

[EXT. A crowded road. Worshipper runs ahead chanting ‘Ho-sa-nna!’. Disciples all looking off stage, others with them. Food on ground, psalms being sung. Noise of crowds. Disciples must shout to each other in order to be heard.]

Matthew         Not bad eh!

Thomas          I dinna unnerstaun it, I thocht they wur gonnae malkie him. This is Glasgow! They’re no lookin fir someone tae follae.

Matthew         Did you hear what he said?

Thomas          Did you?

Matthew         Wrote it down. He said-

Thomas          [straining to see]: Haud oan, whur’s he gaun-

Matthew         Wherever he wants to! It’s like the whole city turned out here!

Thomas          As lang as he bides wi the people he’s fine…[moaning] ach, where’s he goin noo?

Matthew         [intense]: Man, you’ve got to hear this!

Thomas          He’s no, he’s no gaun tae the temple, aw Matthew tell me he’s no gaun tae go intae the temple oan a donkey! Please tell me, please tell me He’s not going to… We’ve got to stop him! We’ve got to save him…

[Thomas runs off, looking stressed, pausing as he goes]

Matthew         He said if they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out.

[Crowd chanting: Ho-sa-nna!]

Matthew         He looked out over the city and said ‘if you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. What do you think he meant?

Peter               I…Matthew, I think I know who he is. I think he’s been telling us, and you’ve been writing it down, but we haven’t actually gotten it yet. Its right there. We just need to read-

[Enter Jewish Leader]
Jewish Leader
 Who is he?! Is it him?

Peter               Sir…

JL                   I have seen you with him. [pushes Matthew out of the way] Tell me, do you know who he is?

Peter               Yes. But I’m not going to tell you.

JL                   Is that so? Is this the one, is it him, is he the avenger? The one in the prophecy?

Peter               He is the one in the prophecies but…

JL                   So he has come to kill the Romans!

Peter               He’s the one in the prophecy. He’s going to save us. But I don’t think he’s going to kill the Romans.

JL                   So he’s not the one.

Peter               It doesn’t say anything about killing people in the prophecies.

JL                   My child was killed by that roman puppet king and you are telling me that God does not care, and is not just, and will not avenge my son?

Peter               I’m telling you that God will avenge your son. And save him.

JL                   Who is he?

Peter               Why won’t you listen to me?

JL                   These people are with you now but they will not take another disappointment.

Peter               Listen to him! Listen to what he says!

JL                   You’ve been warned. [leaves]

Peter               At least believe because of the miracles!

[Disciples in upper room. All kneeling, some trembling or clawing the ground or reading.]

Disciples         [together, quietly:] A man stands upon a cross and offers blood for me.

Disciple 1        This act means more to me than anywhere I’ve ever been, this love is sacrosanct, this man my saviour. This is the reason I have lived.

Disciples         [quietly] A man stands upon a cross and offers blood for me.

Disciple 2        [crying] I thought you said it would be easy. I thought

Simon the Zealot       I’m no angel. [disciples chant ‘I’m no angel’]. I tried to be a brother – loveless, sometimes. I was the avenging priest but without love, I avenge only the serpent upon myself, I can’t speak your words, walk in your ways, no, I can’t even hold your feet. I’m no angel but you are Jesus and you tell me I’m made good.

Disciples         [slightly louder this time] A man stands upon a cross and offers blood for me.

[Thomas enters saying ‘My Lord and my God’ over and over again. He is pacing around, the only one standing. Gradually others will stand up one by one indicating that they have seen him too.]

Thomas                      I see him. I see him. See the love, the blood, the pain. The reason I have lived. I see him.

Matthew                     You left. And do I have your words? What am I to do now? What am I- [he stands, silent]

Thomas                      See the love!

[Everyone is standing by now. They turn, backs to the audience.]

Thomas                      Now everything is done for me. Everything is cross.

[Lights out]

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