Let us accept it. Revenge is a basic human emotion; if not, it most definitely is an extension of one. Civility and the good books teach us to forgive and forget lest one bad act begets another. Yet, humans express the entire range of emotions, from apathy to murderous rage, when faced with unpleasant situations.
But then, let me start with an illustration. i usually consider myself a peace loving citizen of the world and inhabit this world in the hope that it keeps getting to be a better place to live in. Most insults directed at me are usually met with a passive indifference or a smirk [subject to the gravity of the situation]. However, its highly unlikely of me to fly off the handle and abuse the person and/or enter into non-speaking terms with an individual over an incident.
But i just lose it when someone cuts in front of me while in traffic. Whatever be the size of the intruding vehicle, i make it my sole purpose in my short term existence to teach the offender a lesson. Even if that means having to cut other fellow motorists and pedestrians to achieve my aim. i recollect distinctly, at the peak of my vengeful existence, having gone out of my way [literally] to exact revenge even though the motorist was headed to a destination that was obviously not on my route. It never fails to amaze me what it is that makes me react in such a manner. This behaviour also realizes itself when i notice a fellow motorist being very kind in testing his/her horn and subjecting us to the test.
As almost every action performed by a human, even the cause of revenge, is driven by a purpose. Now comes the key part of my argument. The good books, the media and history have always preached that the purpose for revenge is the result of a senseless urge arising from the individual to exact an even more grievous punishment upon the offender as a method of “teaching a lesson”. While i am not debating the virtue of forgiveness here [in fact, i praise the nobility of the act and hope to fully embrace it soon], it is very often unfair upon the subject exacting revenge to suggest that the vengeful act is a result of a senseless urge. And my issue is with the “senseless” part of it.
Getting back to my reactions while on the road, terming my actions as senseless would be missing the entire essence of the act. Here are my explanations. For one, it is quite a smart move since both me and my would-be-victim are strangers and our lives would intertwine only for that instance when i would be paying the dude back in kind for cutting ahead of me. The chances of us meeting again are extremely slim and as a result and very importantly, the act would NOT influence my life in any negative way. In addition, i am also teaching the offender some civility while in traffic. Hence, for one, i am being smart and not senseless.
But an even more interesting aspect to the situation is the central issue we are focusing on: the purpose. That the act by the offender has now given me a purpose [aside from just reaching my destination]. And as long as the newly purposed purpose does not deter me from my longer term purpose [in this case of reaching my destination safely], i might as well fulfill it with some extra elements of fun thrown in. In conclusion, i have proved it beyond doubt that revenge is most surely not a senseless act; rather, it is an act that essentially presents the purposes/choices to the subject, who in turn, executes the vengeance in full cognizance of the consequences.
That is the reason why i have been terribly aggrieved by the portrayal of revenge afforded over the years by various art and media forms upon us. The act of revenge makes sense for the subject because that is, in fact, the sole purpose left for him/her to remain in existence. So be it Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, The Bride in Kill Bill, Lenny in Memento or the characters in Chan Wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy, life has rendered their existence useless and in this orphaned existence, they sought out a purpose to live. And this purpose, for more bad than good, turned out to be exacting revenge upon subjects who rendered an otherwise trouble-free life to harm. And this lends a karmic angle to the whole equation.
So while an eye for an eye would make the whole world go blind, God only helps those who help themselves.