There is an eight mile stretch on my daily commute that has over 25 traffic lights. In the afternoon you WILL be stopped by at least 2/3 of the lights. You can usually tell pretty much as soon as your light turns green if you’ll have to stop at the next, but you need to always watch for the quick, unexpected red light. The traffic is pretty heavy, though there is little chance it will become gridlock – usually when the light turns green all cars will make it through before it turns red again, even if somebody in the line is very slow. It’s also impossible to get ahead. If you run a light you’ll be stopped at the next and the people around you will catch up.
Every day I see a lot of people jam on the accelerator as hard as they can even though they can plainly see the stopped cars in front of them. Then they stomp on their breaks and come to shaky halt an inch from the car in front of them as if taken by complete surprise. They burn more petrol costing them, put wear and tear on the engine and breaks which it will eventually make it more expensive to maintain the car, and they greatly increased the likelihood of being in an accidental. They get angry and make those around them angry. By cutting people off, they often cause others harm. And for all of this what did they gain? Absolutely zero. Not a nanosecond.
I’ve been in a car with someone who drove this way. He was constantly swearing at “the F***ing Idiots!” who were causing him delay. He yelled at people when they slowed down even though it was plain to see the red light and line of stopped cars. What’s wrong with these people, keeping him back, didn’t they know he had places to go?! It was nerve-wracking as he served lane to lane trying to get ahead but being pushed back by every lane change.
He didn’t get ahead. It may have taken longer to get there than if he drove like “those idiots”. He pissed off a lot of people and “hurt” them by making them slam on their breaks to avoid a collision. He burned much more gas than he should have and put a huge amount of wear and tear on the vehicle. It surely can’t be good for his health to be under that type of stress! And for that he gained nothing, he even got farther behind. And he did this every day, day after day.
The problem is, there are people who go through life this way. They are so self-centered they don’t care if they’re hurting others and don’t realize they are actually hurting themselves. They have anger and/or contempt for those around them. The whole goal of life is to get ahead at the expense of others, to get while the getting’s good. And yet they are so un-self-aware they don’t understand that their attitude is actually keeping them back. If pointed out, they talke their self-centeredness as being self-aware.
There is a big difference between being self-centered and being self-aware. I would say the more self-aware you are, the less self-centered you can be. As you truly see yourself you begin to understand and appreciate that all of the good things you have in the end have their roots in what the community has given you. No man is an island.
But it’s more than that. You don’t avoid doing evil for fear of punishment nor do you do good for want of reward. That’s a very simplistic view of the universe, the type they teach five-year-olds in Sunday School. You don’t even do it to payback society of all you have received, though that is a good sentiment. You avoid evil because it is evil and you do good for its own sake, because it is good, meaning it’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter if there’s a cosmic check list keeping track of your actions or not.
The first step of helping others is becoming self-aware. The more we know and love ourselves in an un-self-centered way, the more empathy we will have for others. The truer our compassion will be. We will give of ourselves not to serve our own purposes, but just because that’s who we are. That’s what it means to be part of a community, including the world community. We may not always gain materially, but aren’t the rewards of a life well lived much greater than any material object?
So we stay calm and drive. We always try to stay aware of what the cars around us are doing. If someone is trapped in the wrong lane, we let them in. We also pay attention to the road conditions, how the lights are changing and to the traffic patterns. We work within the system and with the other cars, not against them. We help if needed and purposefully don’t hinder. We may not get ahead, but is it really a race? And in the long run the journey will take just as long either way, but think of what you’ll save!
Not to mention the peace of mind you’ll have at journey’s end.
There is so much negativity in this world it is time for people from all over the world, from different races and religions to stand up and put out a positive message for compassion. If you haven’t heard yet, on February 20, 2015 we want to get at least 1000 people to blog and Tweet about compassion. There is now a Word Press Blog for this event. Please take a look! You can join at the Facebook page.
Image from of traffic signal created by Kevin Payravi, Wikimedia Commons