Shawn and I walked our dog Gaia together this morning, and while we were out, a man stopped his car and asked for directions.As we spoke, another car came up behind him with the driver gesturing for the first car to move over.
The lost motorist moved over about five seconds later, and as the second car passed, its driver (who is a neighbor of mine, so I know he had just left his home) rolled the window down to shout at the man in need of directions.
It was a quick, impactful and rage-filled outburst from someone who had been forced to wait no more than eight seconds. Instinct took over, and the first driver, who seemed rather mild-mannered, yelled back, though he had neither the same level of rage nor anger in his voice.
As we walked away, I wondered how I might have reacted, and reflected on how I have actually responded in similar situations where another motorist did something to intentionally provoke me. How foolish, I thought to myself, to treat another person like that, and yet, it cuts to the core of who we are as human beings in the 21st century.
But why? Certainly, we have the capacity as human beings to demonstrate genuine compassion toward our fellow man. I’d like to think that it’s innate, so why is it such a rare thing to see in an urban environment, or on the world stage for that matter?
Maybe we’re all just worn out and experiencing deep-seated kindness fatigue, you know? Life in this world is tough, and everyone is looking out only for themselves. It’s complicated, to be sure.
Take me for example: compassion under any circumstance is my primary (and difficult to attain) spiritual and personal goal; when combined with loving-kindness, compassion is the foundation of Buddhist teachings and actions. His Holiness the Dalai Lama said it best, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
And yet, even though I went to great pains this afternoon to avoid harming earthworms, grubs, spiders and other bugs while gardening, I can’t find any obvious and clear-cut compassion for that motorist this morning who had a mini-outburst of road rage. It just doesn’t come to the surface naturally, though if I stop and focus on it, I know I’ll find it.
Rather, I hope I will. I certainly need to work on it.