Short Black Temper

Monday morning, 9am, back on the contracting treadmill again, contestant and collaborator in the nine to five daily grind, my services as an Art Worker required and hired by an inner city design studio. It has been a while since I’ve worked in an office—my work is mostly from home and for my own clients these days, a design business run out of what is “home office” to those who employ me, smoke screen and smoked glass desk removed just a bedroom to me. I think I will need the hard stuff to get up to speed, something black and finely ground in a double-sized cup it will be.

Taking my leave as my day’s work has yet to be briefed in, I borrow a colleague’s swipe card and pass modern art “features”, steel and glass reception area through security door to the chill of the outside, worst winter in a half century my cold comfort on way to café.

The area where I am working would once have been industrial, but now is “industrial chic”, former warehouses and good, honest workplaces replaced by advertising and design firms, a hard days work renovated and re-branded at a through the glass ceiling hourly rate. I shouldn’t be too judgemental though, judge a book by it’s $200 an hour, designed and glossy cover. Marxist roots from my younger, porridge and empty cupboard university days aside, this industry now pays my wage.

The café, not the nearest but location of only choice for those with discerning tastes, is unusually anarchic and open plan—one single, banquet-style table down the middle, counters and sliding cabinets of gourmet sandwiches and baking either side, just tell the girl at the counter what you’ve ordered and pay, pick it up when they call your name.

As I queue to order my double-shot, needed doubly beverage, two women of middle age but less than middle awareness stroll blithely past, rushing words between breaths sharpened by the brisk walk between hair salon and café, attention divided between trim and soy options and a conversation started hours before, awareness of others in the world none at all. Minds half parked in second garage and professionally managed share portfolios, these later-day house-wives didn’t precisely jump the queue to the counter, rather they drove right past as if there was else on their private road.

It was liked being robbed by a bank manager, money removed from your account with a smile and hidden fee. I didn’t realise they had not seen me, were actually going to cut me off until their Bulgari purses were open, credit cards proffered for over-priced milky brew. They walked right past me like I was the hired help.

Something started to smoulder, something other than pesto and camembert panini was toasting, burning. Legs planted wide, shoulders stiffening, bristling, fury and anger black was brewing, boiling inside, double strength cup of scalding wrath to be thrown rather than swallowed. I was not going to let this injustice just walk by, let total unawareness and ignorance of others stand unchallenged.

“Excuse me, you see behind me, that empty space, that is a queue, where you should be standing!” My tone and force of speech were the verbal equivalent of a pointing, shaking finger.

Shock, mile-wide eyes spinning, reeling embarrassment, silence in the whole café, nowhere to hide

“You know how I’m standing here?” My tone was raising, volume increasing, voice on cusp of scream and yell, question posed but no answer expected, for it was clearly known. “Well maybe you don’t know, seeing how you’ve walked right past me, but it’s called a queue…”

I lowered my tone, softened volume but not intensity, the pressure in the room doubling like the calm before a raging storm.

“…and… it… begins… with… ME!”

I am walking closer and they are backing, stumbling away. I’m so angry and direct that the force of my words are like stomach punching, air stealing violent blows.


Standing on the cliff-top of indignation and righteous, fully justified anger, something prevented me from jumping off. I thought all these words, cocked tirade’s trigger and took aim to fire, but in the end did not. Something made me holster my weapon, hold my tongue against weight of common sense and wounded pride.

I could have illumined those two women of their ignorance, could have jolted them out of their middle-aged double-rinsed and blow-dried complacency as if fingers in a socket, but I didn’t have the heart to do so. It wasn’t weakness. It simply didn’t feel right.

The spiritual life has rules and guidelines plenty, philosophies and treatises on life and how to live it stacked high enough to build libraries, let alone fill shelves, but one phrase and guiding principle is enough to be keystone and pole star to them all, summary and closing sentence to all the words in the world: listen to your heart.

Beyond reason and logic, philosophy and law, your heart will always tell you the right thing to do, reveal, through intuition and feeling, the correct, clear path ahead, the road to happiness straight and true. The heart is the mouthpiece and vouchsafe of the soul, immutable diamond and infallible guiding light at the core of your being, inner pilot and guide through this life and every life. Practise listening to your heart, hone your ears to its still small voice and guidance, and you will never walk astray.

I ordered my coffee, took a seat at the large central table, let my boiled blood settle amidst the scream and squeal of coffee being made. Seeing clearly instead of red, I took a deep breath, calmed myself, let inner peace as it always does, dissolve life’s raging tumults and storms. My clouds of anger were chased away by a cool, clear-thinking heart, dissipated by the rays of the inner sun, and happiness, clouded for a while, began to shine again.

Your mind may not know
What will make you happy,
But your heart does know
How to make you happy.
Listen to your heart.
Sri Chinmoy,
Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 172

  • Rathin
    Posted at 21:31h, 29 July

    Some might say ‘why not choose peace BEFORE you get mad?’ but hindsight is always 20/20! The sages say that anger is the hardest thing of all to conquer! BTW are the ladies in the photo the same ones you wrote about? No, I’m sure they beat a hasty retreat, anticipating some Hulk-like physical transformation. But I heard you’ve got the antidote now….

  • Shardul
    Posted at 11:34h, 30 July

    Nice read Jaitra – especially as, in all dishonesty, this is not an experience I have ever had. I tend to hold myself above the thrust and cut of the human fray… as you know… and I prefer flat white… 😐

    Use not your tyrant-temper
    To devour the world.
    Use your oneness-treasure
    To become earth’s perfection-soul
    And God’s Satisfaction-Goal.
    – Sri Chinmoy.

  • Jaitra
    Posted at 11:35h, 30 July

    Thanks Rathin, although some might also say don’t believe everything you read!

    No, the ladies in the photo aren’t the same—I didn’t quite have the presence of mind to not only reign in the raging thoroughbred of anger but take a photo while on his back—instead I took a snap for the story another day.

    Anger as the hardest thing to conquer? Remarkable really, all the stories of saints and sages who made it all the way past the realisation goal posts but still hadn’t conquered anger. I guess there’s hope for us yet!

  • Shardul
    Posted at 14:26h, 30 July

    Jaitra, Rathin – this is so true: “Anger as the hardest thing to conquer? Remarkable really, all the stories of saints and sages who made it all the way past the realisation goal posts but still hadn’t conquered anger. I guess there’s hope for us yet!” How often we loose our poise and in doing so, loose our inner treasure and the capacity to remain detached from the situations that we find ourselves in each day. The ancients used to go to the caves and meditate in solitude for years – removed from and undistracted by the ‘world’ and it’s ‘worldliness’. Yet, often when really tested, they would lose the plot.

    Sri Chinmoy taught us that the modern way is to live in the world and, through prayer, meditation, devotion and selfless dedication, develop the capacity to be unswayed by the often tumultuous nature of the world around us – or our by own inner struggles. This is indeed hard at times – it calls for constant vigilance, patience and a very brave attitude. But I am sure that the resulting end product is a deeper and broader Self-Realisation as the path of the modern yogi requires a totally selfless attitude if the terrible ego is to be broken and remolded into something divine and useful to the higher purposes of life. In this scenario, there is more than hope; there is a quiet yet confident certitude of the fast approaching Goal and the promise of an ineffable peace that can only be gained by ‘a return to the Source’. And people who foster good qualities in their day-to-day lives spread their good qualities and aspirations to the world through their daily activities and spiritual disciplines – no matter what their path or belief. This is an eternal, universal truth.

    For my part, I admire all who have the courage to face their inadequacies and move forward – no matter their pace or path.

    Jai fellow travelers!

  • Ishmael
    Posted at 13:35h, 01 August

    I don’t have a problem with righteous anger; if anyone gets between me and a cup of Java, my low place on the evolutionary scale becomes apparent. I never wanted to be a saint, just to make it to the next streetlight.

    A great reawakening of the long-dormant Jaitra blog, good to see your writing skills used so effectively.


  • Rob Cubbon
    Posted at 06:42h, 02 August

    Hello Jaitra, I feel incredibly honored to have my website linked to in order to explain to your readers the nature of the work you were on your way to when “cafe incident” took place. I practiced meditation for a few years and found it helped with so many of life’s minor and major discomforts I couldn’t speak highly enough of it. Sadly, since getting married I’ve let the practice slip but have been meaning to get back on it.

    Another thing that’s changed for me is that I used to freelance as an Artworker in various offices/studios around London UK. It’s quite an amazing experience to go round to all these different places for a few days and stare into a computer screen and then onto the next. I’m working from home now which presents it’s extra challenges.

    Anyway, sorry to go on. Great article, you clearly should write a book if you haven’t already. All the best, Rob.
    .-= Rob Cubbon´s last blog ..Changing the shape of a leaf in Photoshop =-.

  • Jaitra
    Posted at 21:30h, 03 August

    Thanks for the soliloquy and comment Shardul. In talking about conquering anger, and when not talking about myself, I often think of a story Sri Chinmoy used to tell about the Greek philosopher Socrates and the virtue of self-control. Here’s an excerpt:

    “Socrates, with a host of his admirers, went to see a palmist. The palmist read Socrates’ hand. “What a bad person you are, full of lower vital problems and corruption of all sorts,” he said. Socrates’ admirers were thunderstruck and they wanted to punish the palmist for having the audacity to say such uncomplimentary things about their teacher, who was a very pious man, a real saint. Socrates immediately said, “Wait. Let us ask if he has something else to say.” He said, “This man has all these undivine qualities in him, but they are all under his self-control. They are all at his command.”

  • Jaitra
    Posted at 21:32h, 03 August

    Nice to see you taking time out from hunting the great flat white Ishmael, but does Captain Ahab know you’re here?
    .-= Jaitra´s last blog ..Short Black Temper =-.

  • Shardul
    Posted at 21:39h, 03 August

    Thank you for putting me in memory of this story Jaitra -it has always inspired me. 🙂

  • Jaitra
    Posted at 21:42h, 03 August

    Thanks so much Rob, I’m incredibly honoured that the owner of the number one search result for “artworker definition” in Google took the time to visit!

    Funnily enough we share career paths as well as interest in meditation. I initially worked in studios around Auckland after going freelance, but am now more or less running a one man web and design studio, and know all about the challenges of working from home—and the rewards.

    Thanks for the writing encouragement—sooner rather than later I do hope to transform my part time hobby into something more eligible for publication.
    .-= Jaitra´s last blog ..Short Black Temper =-.

  • Ishmael
    Posted at 14:24h, 08 August

    Well, Ahab did ask me to go to Starbuck’s to get him a coffee, and I was on my way there when I got blindsided by your new blogs. Avast!
    .-= Ishmael´s last blog ..A Sense of Place =-.

  • Jaitra
    Posted at 14:45h, 08 August

    When feeling a little white around the gills, ’tis better to be blindsided by a spearing blog post than stinging harpoon, as the good Captain used to say.
    .-= Jaitra´s last blog ..Short Black Temper =-.

  • Ishmael
    Posted at 14:27h, 12 August

    Lo, now I am becalmed on a wordless sea! What lies beneath?

  • Jaitra
    Posted at 17:35h, 16 August

    The fathomless ocean perhaps? Just fall beneath the surface Ishmael, words are to be plumbed below…
    .-= Jaitra´s last blog ..Short Black Temper =-.

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