Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why the Hulk should be Red not Green

Another reflection by Pastor Paul Long on my book, Spiritual Formation on the Run. As you will know from reading his reflection, both of us are hard-core comic fans.

Why the Hulk should be red not green (Spirtual Formation on the Run) and some not so spiritual ramblings too

It has been a tiring few weeks. One major reason has been a problem with my prescription glasses. *sigh* Makes my eyes so tired that I literally have to shut them. And of course it is hard to focus. Hope the new ones are ready soon. I tend to sleep a little earlier too as I literally can't keep my eyes opened but I dream a lot and get up often as my "brain is not happy" to be asked to power down when it has a lot on its mind :-) The human mind is really a wonder!
Anyway, I have finished this Sunday's sermon early, which is good as I have a lot to do this week. And this time I am not going to work harder in resisting the temptation to look at my sermon before Saturday. And since I have a birthday party on Saturday, that might help as well :-)

It's a good time to pause and do some re-centering. Been a while since I posted up anything on my slow but steady "run" with Dr. Alex's book so here's one ... under his 'HEROES AND SUPERHEROES" category"

Quick preliminary note ... I suspect when Dr. Alex wrote this particular chapter, Marvel had not yet come out with the RED HULK or RULK story line :-) Interesting read ... click HERE for a summary. I am still waiting in line for my turn (booked it online at my local library) to check out Vol 2 of the Red Hulk graphic novel compilation. Vol 1 was interesting. First the chapter from the book ... Spiritual Formation on the Run, not the Red Hulk!


The fictional comic book character, the Incredible Hulk, was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962. The Hulk is the alter ego of a mild-mannered physicist, Dr Bruce Banner, who is accidentally irradiated by gamma radiation. Whenever he gets angry, he will turn into the Hulk, a creature of pure rage that is invincible and incredibly strong. The angrier the Hulk gets, the stronger and bigger he becomes. I guess he is green because of the gamma radiation. Why green and not red? The English expression for becoming angry is "seeing red." A red Hulk will be more appropriate.

Many of us are aware of the beast within us. And of the thin veneer of civility that makes us respectable citizens. Occasionally, someone snaps and the beast breaks out. Then we are horrified by the violence done to persons and properties. Sometimes, it is not a person but a mob or a nation that rages. In the aftermath of the carnage, we are again reminded of the evil that lurks in the heart of human beings. In our hectic, chaotic and stressful lives, anger is a constant emotional companion. While some of us are aware of it, others are not. Many try to repress their anger. In doing so, they become impatient, irritable and aggressive. Repressing anger does not make it go away. Like energy, emotions can be converted into other forms. Repressed energy is converted into hatred, bitterness and anxiety.

"Please don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" are well-known words from the Hulk television series. They turn up in every comic, TV programme and movie involving the not-so-jolly green man. What makes you angry? Could it be social injustice, exploitation of the poor, religious intolerance, and maybe abuse of political privileges? My reasons for getting angry are often not so righteous. I get angry because I do not get my way: Why do people not behave the way I expect them to? Why do projects not go the way I plan? Why does the universe not happen the way I want it to? I get angry and then I feel guilty. I remember what Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:26-27). Paul was referring to Psalm 4:4, "In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent'

I also remember an old Cherokee story named "The Two Wolves.' An old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me;' he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego:'

He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too:'

The grandson thought for a minute and asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed:'

As I reflect on this story, I draw out some wisdom. The psalmist, the Apostle Paul and the old Cherokee did not deny the existence of anger or being angry. In fact, they all acknowledged it. They also taught me that the only way to deal with anger is not to feed it. The only way to deal with anger is to starve it of attention and other emotions. The Hulk is pure rage - violent raw energy - and red is an appropriate colour. Green reminds me of leafy meadows, peacefulness and calm. Methinks the Hulk should be red. Or even better, blue...

Reflecting on the subject matter of this chapter is not easy for me as I have a problem with anger. However at the same time has also been an encouraging time of reflection as while I am still an angry person by nature, there I can see by the grace of God that there has over the years been a clear positive difference in my life in the area of anger.

In a "tensed" counselling session last week, it was interesting that this person reacted in surprise when I mentioned that I have an ongoing struggle with anger. Made me realize when I had time to think about the reaction that it is nice to know that by God's grace, people notice!

I do agree that repressing our anger doesn't help. So one way I deal with my anger is to talk about it or let it out quickly so that it can be a controlled anger release. Another way is to try to tackle an issue that is making me angry quickly so that it doesn't build up. As the Hulk would say "You wouldn't like me when I am angry". Not that I destroy things but it is not a nice look for me :-)

But I do think it is okay to get angry for certain reasons. Of course the Ephesians 4 passage is an important reminder and guide that unless carefully managed, anger leads to sin. (BTW, it is another interesting coincidence that in 2 weeks time, my sermon text is Psalm 4). Over the years (as part of my very long term on-going life reflection :-)) I have come to the realization that God has used my anger (in response to certain situations) to help mold me into who I am today. For example, some incidents during my secondary school years that made me angry (soci-economic and racist attacks by a certain teacher against some students) became seeds of a dream to help build and pastor a multi-racial, socio-economically diverse church community. It encourages me that even outbursts of anger can be used by God for some good.

I also like that old Cherokee story. It has remained with me from the first time I read it umpteen years ago - sure fire sign of a good story. One great lesson I learnt from Henri Nouwen helps. it is to focus on the lovely (i.e. Jesus) and everything else will fade away in comparison. For me, counting my blessings too is a related helpful way that eliminates or at least reduces any anger build up.

But proper rest too seems to play a big role in how I manage anger. If I am tired, I find it harder to keep my anger in check. Reminds me that as a human being, I cannot separate my physical, emotional and mental condition from my spiritual.

One aspect that I disagree with Dr. Alex is ....

... the Hulk should not be red but remain green. LOL.

The Green Hulk may get angry and smash things but essentially he is violent not because he is evil and wants to destroy things. He has the mind of a child and just wants to be left alone but everybody except a handful of people do not understand or respect his wishes and keep trying to imprison or hurt him out of fear. The only time he was deliberately evil was in the World War Hulk storyline when he was driven by rage and wanted revenge for the death of his wife (yup, he actually fell in love and got married).

BTW, if you are truly bored and have loads of time on your hand, and you want to figure out the HULK storyline, click HERE. Be warned, it is confusing as there are many manifestations of the Hulk. I have scanned though the article before but wasn't that interested as I hated the Grey Hulk story lines.

The Red Hulk on the other hand is maliciously evil and selfish, deliberate in his wanton destruction.

Let the poor original Bruce Banner Hulk remain green. Though the various story lines may at times be questionable in quality, he at least is essentially a character I can feel sorry for :-)

I had a good laugh yesterday when I watched an episode of ENTERPRISE that I taped the other day. It introduced a new race, the Orions, evil to the core (they deal in piracy and the slave trade). Their skin colour? Green! Their features? Ogre like. Their temperaments? Nasty and violent. But the funny part was seeing the huge almost 500 lb wrestler, Paul Wight, a.k.a. THE BIG SHOW as an Orion slave trader.

Other Paul's reflections

How expensive is your church?

How heavy is your burden?
Shout to the world
The silence in the noise
Omission and Commission
A Burning Bush

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