Sunday, February 26, 2012

closing the loop

For years I noticed that when I was stopped at a traffic light, people would pull up their cars to fill in the inches or feet to the car in front of them. I didn't, of course. Instead I often felt nice and superior--I'm good at that--because they were being so impatient. What's the point of moving your car? The light hasn't changed. Silly people.

One day recently, I was at a traffic light and my radio had some static. As usual, I moved the car forward a bit to improve the reception (it's possible if you have a nicer car that you've never encountered this problem and solution), and...


So while I was making up stories about why people were moving their cars while stopped at a traffic light, I was doing the exact same thing, with a perfectly legitimate reason. I wonder if anyone else was making up a story about what I was doing?

We do this all the time. There's no telling why that woman in the security line was so oblivious to how she was slowing everything down. Maybe she's going to help care for her grown daughter who's dying of cancer. Probably not, but that process, of constantly remembering that we've all got our own stuff going on and it's sometimes pretty heavy, is the essence of compassion. On parallel tracks, we learn to see our own suffering, we learn to see other people as suffering, and eventually we realize (in the sense of "to make real") that the connection goes even beyond "they're just like us."

You never know what's really going on.

1 comment:

  1. We were just talking about this in the class I'm a GSI for. We're talking about negotiations and the topic came up. It even has a name:

    The bit on how the theory was restructured is a little confusing, but interesting if you read the section on it (instead of just what's in the intro).