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Larry Barnett
Public Citizen
Larry Barnett

The equanimity of annoyance

I get Donald Trump. I don't like him, but I get him. I understand why he acts and sounds like a jerk; The Donald is annoyed. Being annoyed places him the company of a lot of New Yorkers and former New Yorkers, like me. When you grow up in a city teeming with crowds, noise and stink it's easy to feel annoyed. In fact, for New Yorkers feeling annoyed is a path to equanimity. Trump has tapped into America's annoyance. As life across America has moved closer to life in big cities - traffic-filled streets, oblivious pedestrians in cross-walks checking their email, sirens, shootings, constant interruptions and tons of trash -  the annoyance factor has skyrocketed. When you add in global warming, international armed conflict, terrorism and trade wars...well, it's all very annoying. That annoyance would be key to being nominated as the candidate of the Republican Party speaks volumes. Annoyance, of course, is a subset of irritation, itself a form of simmering anger. It's this quality of simmering anger which The Donald so easily displays in his defensive daily rants, insults, put-downs, innuendos and other Twitter posts. Tweets, and Twitter overall, is the finest tool yet invented for the continuously annoyed. My father, born in Brooklyn, spent his entire life annoyed. Entering a restaurant, he'd be annoyed at the table chosen for him; waiting for a cab, he'd be annoyed at how long it took to get one; approaching 91-years-of-age, he'd be annoyed at the prospect of death; you get the point. When he finally got too weak to be annoyed, he died. For New Yorkers, annoyance is nearly equivalent to survival. And as his born and bred New York son, I inherited my father's habits of annoyance, and they turned me into a full-fledged sarcastic; I've been in recovery for half my life. Annoyance gives New Yorkers an edge, a constant IV-like drip of adrenaline that maintains sharpness. Expecting to be annoyed, New Yorkers like The Donald are always on the look-out for upcoming trouble; in fact, guys like The Donald make trouble just to keep themselves sharp. A day without annoyance is a day without sunshine; lack of annoyance is itself annoying. Thus there are two side to the equanimity of annoyance. On one side is the sharpness born of seeking out sources of annoyance, naming and shaming them into oblivion. Setting aside the high rate of heart attacks associated with this approach, for many it suits them just fine. On the other side is seeing annoyance as all-pervading, or what the Buddha called, the Truth of Suffering. This view, though clearly Trump has rejected it, can lead to transcending annoyance itself, and ultimately to deep compassion for all others so annoyed, which is basically everyone. As a recovering sarcastic, I now see that while the ways of annoyance and suffering vary, it's something all humans, not just New Yorkers, have in common. I fully realized the Truth of Suffering too late to prevent the blockage in my coronary arteries from forming, but gratefully, early enough to realize my annoyance was lethal and to initiate some steps of intervention. We all seek the equanimity of annoyance, even those addicted to its energy, like The Donald. Choosing the nature of relief is a choice. Like they say, recovery comes one annoyance at a time.
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