Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Om Gal Addresses Road Rage

Reader Query: Being nice: what a novel idea. I was driving on a little country road (okay maybe not a little country, but a lot country and no rock and roll) when I saw a small speck on the road ahead of me. It turned out to be a snapping turtle trying to get to a pond on the other side. Without thought, I stopped the car in the middle of the street to help it along. Remember OG, this isn't Comm Ave. People in the country can stop their cars and it doesn't result in massive honking. Or does it? After setting the turtle carefully next to the pond, I realized that a car approaching from the opposite direction was screaming words, saved only for rush hour road rage, in my general direction. I guess that they didn't read your blog. Any advice on how to handle situations like this?

Perhaps you should start packing water balloons or eggs on your trips down charming country roads? Or, you can take a more zen approach, which would include seeing this deranged driver through more compassionate eyes. This practice isn't easy, but there are two key Buddhist principles that are sure to serve you well on your travels, namely the first two Noble Truths. They are as follows:

1. Suffering exists.

2. Ignorance and desire are the root causes of suffering.

I should note that "ignorance" is not synonymous with stupidity, although sometimes, the latter follows the former. Ignorance, in this case, denotes a lack of knowledge. Put simply, people are hurtful because they lack the knowledge or skills to act otherwise. It's possible for people to know that what they're doing is hurtful, impolite, brutish, or downright evil, even while doing it; however, some portion of their fragmented brains makes them carry out these harmful actions anyway.

Your goal is view the situation from a less personal perspective. Consider the following . . . A few years ago, I was teaching in an inner city school and decided to take a breather around lunchtime. I was crossing the street, headed to Walgreens, when I politely smiled at a woman walking toward me in the crosswalk. Instead of returning the smile, she said the following, "Don't you f*cking smile at me, ________!" [I've omitted the last expletive for your delicate eyes].

Imagine, being verbally attacked for smiling at someone? Kind of like being harangued for saving a turtle, right? At the time, I took no offense. Here's why: she was clearly a lunatic. Let me be more diplomatic; she was visibly unstable, which made it pointless to get angry. It's no different than when a baby yanks your hair. Even if it hurts like heck (they can tug hard!); the baby isn't being malicious. He/she doesn't know better. Eventually, our goal is to cultivate the realization that everyone is doing their best, in a given moment, the best they know how. But, don't take it from me. Here's what the Buddha would tell you . . .

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

Remember, you have much more important things to do (and turtles to save!) than to get offended by a stranger's misplaced rage. In other words, you, my big-hearted, nature-loving friend, are way too good for that sort of b.s.


Anonymous said...

Oh my. The universe gives you what you need when you need it. I have been on the edge since yesterday PM (due to working relationships) and your blog just backed me off the edge. I'm renaming OG to Person-who-talks-other-people-down-from-the-edges-of tall-buildings (mostly because I can't remember what the job title really is).

Luke said...

Other peoples bad behavior is never my fault and I need not take it personally. Great blog.