Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?
Passing scenery is a metaphor for our lives streaming along the time continuum: we’re constantly viewing the road ahead while contemplating what we’ve left in the past – and what we face in our present. Our vehicular journeying leads us to pivotal moments of contemplation, our thoughts cascading like dominos.
It’s a beautiful summer morning. Being a morning person, I give thanks for the season, the way the air smells this early in the morning and for bird song. I glance about, pop my gear shift into reverse and realize there’s a father holding a small child in his arms too close to the rear of my car. He’s slowly walking and is now glaring at me as I mouth, “Sorry!” Did I mention all of me, myself and I were in the car? So, of course, there begins a dialogue of “Why are you apologizing, he saw you get in the car – heard the engine running – he shouldn’t have been walking practically up against the car.”
The father continues to glare at me as I mouth another “Sorry!” “Well,” the internal dialogue continues, “I’m not going to slit my wrists for something that didn’t happen, that I took accountability for and for which you also have some accountability.” I glanced about again and backed out of my driveway, the young father still glaring back at me for what might have been – but wasn’t.
I used to play skipping stones with my uncle at a pond near his house. He’d also take my siblings and I in tow with his own brood along the dirt roads for a treat, joining in as we kicked a stone down the road. As I grew older, I’d hear him say that a thought could get kicked down the road so that one thing leads to another; and it happened to me that morning. The young father’s animosity kept him in focus: He was of a different culture – He had a son in his arms which, perhaps, has given the child more value to him than if it had been female – I am, perhaps, a materialistic American who has a pricier car – I am female and, perhaps, I had been admonished for daring to possibly bring even the slight intimation of harm to him and his male child.
In my imaginings, I was no longer just a woman taking pleasure in my simple morning routine of fueling up for tomorrow’s Monday and getting my morning cuppa. I was a nation of Americans – I was without a nation because I was a lowly female always meant to be at the service of – I was a lone individual in a world huge and violent, where the slightest of slights to someone’s ego could result in a glare resonant of a will to assault another.
Then I reasserted my wiser self, realizing I had momentarily been caught in fearful assumptions of another I know nothing about. As I turned into the intersection, I took a deep breath. I can only live my own life to the best of my ability. By the time I turned back into my residential community, my thoughts were on all of us who do not will to harm another. We who, around the world, live under religious, political and national identities that pull us into maelstroms of willful misunderstandings and power mongering. In my smallness, I listen to the happy bird song, freely given. As humanity has done throughout history, I tap into hope and courage and I smile. A shadow follows me.