If you see a well-dressed professional looking intently at his or her cell phone at the commuter bus stop, touching the screen, frowning, it might be an important business exchange—or it might be that he or she is playing Angry Birds. Likewise, if you see a gaggle of adolescents guffawing as they show each other something on their phones, it may be a questionable YouTube video . . . or it may be their activity on Angry Birds.
According to Venture Beat, the free game had been downloaded on iPhones and compatible devices more than 11 million times in 60 countries by October of last year. Also, Rovio has sold more than 6.5 million copies of an upgraded version of the game. That’s a lot of people flinging birds around—and talking about it: tweets about Angry Birds show up about once every minute in the Twittersphere.
The premise of the game is simple. Ask any seven year old, and he or she will tell you: The birds are angry at the pigs because the pigs have taken something that belongs to them. So what do these birds do? They line up to throw themselves across the countryside via slingshot—straight into wood, glass, rocks, and whatever else might be between them and these smug sows and boars.
At first it’s just a way to pass some “down time.” Then, suddenly, a lot more time than you expected has been dumped into playing this little game. It challenges the mind, requiring the player to use his or her physics prowess and strategy skills. The game is well designed in that there are so many elements and variables, no two rounds should ever look exactly the same. Plus, there is just enough of that old elixir, vengeance, to keep you coming back. The pigs (which are your targets) actually scoff at you when you fail.
The sound effects are hilarious. The birds squawk impatiently, they cheer one another on, and they let out grunts and moans when they hit something hard. In fact, if you’re like me, you will find yourself feeling a bit sorry for the birds. After all, not one of them survives the catapult into pig domain. Whether he dies a hero or a failure, each bird eventually disappears with a whimper and a puff of feathers.
One might say this game’s design is a sign of our calloused culture. Why do we have to use birds? Couldn’t this game just use sticks and stones instead? Are we so cold-hearted that we don’t mind the idea of throwing live birds to their deaths, just to hurt our enemies?
But this game also teaches us about anger. Perhaps we are like these angry birds in ways we need to realize. I once heard a wise saying to the effect that anger is the poison that you drink and expect it to kill someone else. Perhaps this derived from the ancient Seneca’s statement that “malice drinks one-half of its own poison.”
Or, according to the Korean proverb, “If you kick a stone in anger, you'll hurt your own foot.”
Or as good old Will Rogers said, “People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.”
Well, you get the idea. When you act in anger, you often hurt yourself. And you hurt others in a way that you later regret. Sometimes anger is like a living entity, whispering into your ear thoughts that seem so right at the time . . . and so wrong afterward.
Just the other day I got frustrated with my husband. We couldn’t agree on how to complete a project. I suddenly felt completely disrespected. I stalked away; I even slammed a door. And right in the middle of it all, I said these words: “You are so difficult to live with.”
My anger made me do it.
By the grace of God, the next thing I did was retreat into a book, and the first book I grabbed was full of grace and truth. I couldn’t read it without realizing how short-sighted I’d been—again. The anger dissolved, leaving humility and regret. Faster than I ever would have expected, I was ready to apologize. Less than half an hour later, I sincerely said that I was wrong, and that I know I am difficult to live with. Remarkably, I was forgiven and granted an apology to soothe my own offended places.
It was good. But what would have been better was if I had recognized anger when it first arrived, and taken control over my members—my tongue, in particular.
Perhaps next time, I will. But only by the grace of God.
My husband was recently struck by James 1:19-20: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (NIV) Verses like this remind me that life is not about being right, looking good, or coming out ahead. It’s about showing this amazing, counter-cultural, Christ-like humility. The kind you can’t manufacture. It comes only through prayer and self-denial—and grace.
I don’t begrudge you any time with Angry Birds. (At least, as long as it doesn’t rob your work or your family.) But I hope that while you are learning physics and enjoying the graphics, you are also reminded of the destructive power of anger. Perhaps, by grace, the next time we feel angry, we’ll not be tempted into self-destruction like our foolish feathered friends.
Laurel Cornell Robinson is a writer living in Maryland.
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