Archive for May, 2023

anger’s long shadow

I used to work with someone who had a horrible anger problem, like a volcano ready to explode. This was before “belonging” and “inclusion” became popular words in the workplace, and people got away with much more than they should have. People were afraid of this man. He possessed power and knew how to wield it to persuade others. He was also quite charming. However, he frequently erupted in fits of anger. When he exploded, the entire office trembled from his rage. However others relished in it, while being thankful it wasn’t directed at them. Confronting his anger became a sick form initiation for those who worked under him. New hires weren’t truly accepted into the community until they endured their first or second encounter with his yelling, name-calling, or throwing of things. Those who had worked for him for years made excuses for him and shielded him. They loved him and considered his anger as a wound in need of attention, care and nurturing. He passed away a few years ago, but the people he scarred with his rage, me included, still remember it vividly. They have been forever changed.

I recently read that “people contain their opposites,” and it reminded me of him. On weekends, he would dress up as a clown and entertain children with cancer and their families. The hospital adored him and cherished him as their dear friend—a clown who brought laughter to children. I believe he saw himself as a good father figure who needed to, from time to time, discipline his employees, using harsh methods to keep them “in line.” It was an incredibly complex and challenging first work experience to be so intimately connected with someone who possessed immense power but was also deeply troubled.

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I asked ChatGPT to explain a poem today. It’s a complex, beautiful piece with evocative imagery that blends holy and tranquil symbols with horrific and tense ones. The AI summarized the content, then unpacked the meaning of each image. The analysis was exceptional but lacked the emotional dimension of experiencing the chaotic scene. Afterward, I requested it to express the poem as a 6-word story, then a 5-word story, and finally a 3-word story, resulting in “War, Christmas, juxtaposed.”

Reading the poem with AI was a unique process, not a perfect analysis, yet it revealed missed insights and offered a faster exploration of the poetic landscape. It was like providing a zoom or pause button, enhancing my exploration and deepening my appreciation without altering the content.

Please read this incredible poem by Ocean Vuong: Aubade with Burning City.

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