No Exit Anywhere Until the End of This Road

The long stretch of interstate is straight and visible for miles ahead, with desert on either side. Going through a difficult stretch is inevitable at some point in everyone’s life. But, sometimes, it appears that there is nothing more to one’s life than lack of comfort, that there’s nowhere welcoming to safely rest and only a lack of assurances that all will be well because we’re not taking action to steer our lives along a better road. There are so many choices along the way of one’s life, accompanied by a small voice acting as a GPS system. It urges us to turn from the self-destructive course we are stubbornly pursuing, to think about the unhappinesses we are bringing to ourselves and others. The only surety is the inevitable dead end.

The grade isn’t too steep, but it’s slippery and the road ahead is only dimly seen.  Are you taking good care of yourself?  When one doesn’t know one’s self, can’t see one’s self because we’ve so many lies, rationalizations and other ways of guarding us from seeing the truth about ourselves, it’s easy to take one wrong turn after another. Self awareness doesn’t have to be, but it can be scary, so we slam on the brakes and deny the truths around us – about us.  But this only leads us to veer out of control.  Thing is, our life roads don’t need to be scary.  We just need to keep our eyes open and accept what is before we can change the course of our lives.  Not ‘put up and shut up,’ but just a knowing of our circumstances so that we’re targeting the right thing for constructive change or a dose of prevention.

Dappled sunlight on the road plays tricks with one’s eyes, so be careful and alert. Shadows and light, truth and lies, what’s wrong and what’s right are all intermingled as we encounter people at all levels of growth on life’s various byways. Their understandings and our understandings can either meld in a partnership of tolerance and compromise or clash in an arrogant assertion of having ‘the right.’ Sometimes, in the shifting light and shadow, we don’t see those who manipulate us, dividing us one against another. Too many times, we don’t seem to care that we’re willing believers in the propaganda and grab eagerly for a ‘we win, you lose’ course.

The road can present a beautiful and serene vista and, if we don’t allow our gaze to wander beyond our own situation, we need never see how things are for others on their paths.  We need never inconvenience ourselves, extend a hand. If you’re enjoying the scenic route, it’s likely a well-deserved locus you’ve arrived at. However, while everyone needs to travel their own road, a simple gesture (even a gesture of restraint and tolerance) can keep another fueled to get them where they need to go – or at least help to make their journeying a little easier and more pleasurable.

With no lasting permanency in any material thing we’ve accomplished when we arrive at our final destination, what imaginings were you pursuing when earthly material and social gains are not yours to keep?

 

 

Go with the Flow

Go with The Flow

He thanked us for checking in on him. I think, with most folks, stopping along the shoulder (well away from a traffic lane) and making sure someone isn’t hurt and alone is “just the right thing to do.” He assured us his OnStar system had been activated on his work truck and that he’d already communicated with dispatch, so help was on the way.

Just moments earlier, we’d watched as the white work truck attempted to correct its course as it sped (with the rest of us) along the highway. OH, NO! Having missed the turn, he attempted to correct his course and turn right. TOO LATE! Aaaaahhhh!! The nose of his truck impacted the sturdy rebar-fortified, enormous concrete post helping to hold up the overpass. Parts of the truck’s panels flew off; the truck skidded to a sideways stop.

Like the worst hyperbolic advertisers, we sell ourselves a bill of goods:  One Time Only OpportunityLAST CHANCEThis opportunity will never come again! We’ve heard messages like this since childhood, and it’s hard to stop the adrenaline from revving, the stress hormone, cortisol, from pumping. That’s because these messages were invariably paired with another pattern: “What a loser!” and “Well, that’s that – you blew your chance… If only you’d paid more attention!” And it’s hard to stop the knee-jerk response to avoid ‘punishment’ in the form of being late, of appearing to be lost or receiving a reprimand. But let’s look at the cost to ourselves and others when we buy into the lie that a moment in time can define us to our detriment: what if the man ended up with permanent disabilities that impaired his ability to work, afford housing, provide for his family? What if other drivers had been unnecessarily harmed? What if the company he drove for was sued, putting employees at risk of their jobs? One thing’s for sure: he’s late to wherever it was he was trying too hard to get to.

Now a woman is waiting at a busy intersection. Go with The Flow 2 She’s waiting in a lane in which her only option will be to proceed straight ahead, but her left turn signal is on. The light turns green, and she sits. There’s a long line of cars that have no choice but to wait with her. When a cacophony of horns begin to sound, she finally begins moving forward. No doubt, she still got to her destination, even if she didn’t get there by the route she initially had in mind.

That’s more often the case than not in ‘real life.’ Some apparent opportunities aren’t for us. And that’s A-OK. So someone else got that promotion- perhaps that specific ‘turn’ wasn’t meant for you. Does someone have a talent or seeming surplus of good fortune – like they’re driving along in a Mozarratti while you’re driving a less awesome vehicle?  How does that stop you from arriving at the destination meant for you? Before you bemoan your supposed fate, consider the many stories of those who met with obstacles that kept them from the twin towers so that they lived and were able to share their almost-was-me stories.

Wherever you go, there you are.  Go with the flow!

 

By Any Other Name

God is the engine powering our lives. It's up to us to shift.
God is the engine powering our lives. It’s up to us to shift.

What does it mean to drive a VW Bug? A Bugatti Veyron? A Ford? Our cars are one of the biggest purchases most of us will ever make, so our choice means something.  Our choice is nuanced with what speaks to us. Whatever our choice, our fuel mobiles facilitate the flow in our lives. We rely on them for the small things and at critical junctures. The journeys we take in life are powered by our choice of vehicle and, likewise, our choice of vehicle impacts where we’re capable of going.

So it is with the belief systems we use to carry us through life.  When I learn of someone’s choice of faith, what does it mean about them any more?

Going back to our wheels, some of us stick with a certain brand- my grandpa felt great pride in his identity as a Ford Man, even after manufacturing went overseas and a cooperative agreement was made with a Russian auto manufacturer. While he would accuse others of not being amongst the truly faithful or loyal, I don’t believe we’re growing and evolving if we don’t remain open to change.  After all, we don’t have to leave something entirely; just step away to do some critical thinking about how now is different from then (like stepping out of your front door to take a walk and a deep breath or two to “clear our heads” or to “hear yourself think”).  We need to grasp the good that change can bring.

Grandpa stuck to his guns about driving only a Ford, but, in reality, the human species has always stepped in and out of traditions, faiths, attitudes and perspectives, just as we have with our rides. Perhaps being a child of a large, extended family of multiple faiths, I’ve grown up accustomed to finding the commonality amongst the various faith systems so that the rituals, vestments and specific wording is interchangeable. When family came together, we understood that faith is essentially the engine that powers whatever we choose to go forward in life with.  If the engine changes, it is, perhaps, just that our understanding of the dynamics behind propulsion is changing, growing.  So it is when God is kept foremost and at the nexus of our variations of faith.

Okay, let me just say it: whatever faith you tell me you follow, it’s all the same to me. Whatever name your God(s) have, the universal truth to our human experience is that killing is wrong. Period. When a fellow human is crying out in misery, we can never claim that this is what God wanted. All faiths have compassion and love at the center.  The defining kernel for all is “Do no harm.”  Faiths, like cars, have to shift their outer, superficial trappings with local and global concerns intermingling and touching every part of the human journey. Otherwise, it’s like saying, “Okay, everyone driving a Subaru is honor-bound to drive straight at everyone driving a Hyundai and kill them” or “God’s chosen are those who only have male drivers – if there’s a female driver, throw acid in her face.” These are the fools and self-deluded who would say, “Let the dead and disfigured go before our God to make Him proud that I have willingly and with forethought done harm to his child.  Let me stand before the Almighty and pound my chest like an animal because, in my blindness, I can’t see how I am weak with intolerance and have debased myself.”

Change can be uncomfortable, but change can be a good indicator that what has been is no longer working in its current form, if at all.  Without this change toward love and inclusivity of all humanity, we’re idling in our lives; we’re spinning our wheels without really getting anywhere, except to wallow in the same ol’ waste of space we’ve been in.

Hint:  Should a God speak to you in loving approval for doing harm to another, RUN!

Hint Hint:  Should you do grievous harm to another and march proudly in mind and/or spirit to the Almighty, either to your place of worship or in the privacy of prayer….Look around…Really look around.  Who is it you see?  Did you really expect it to be God?

 

No Good Deed…

It’s dusk on a fairly lonely stretch of highway, and I see a stranded motorist several miles ahead. As I approach, my headlights show me a guy whose hood’s up.  He has flares and assorted things around him, so he’ll be okay – right? As happenstance drivers, we’re rarely able to guess with a fair amount of certainty what the problem might be. And me? I’m always conflicted when I: don’t slow down and inquire because the hapless could be dangerous; don’t know how I’d pull over without posing a potential traffic hazard; or, when I reach for my phone and hope it will be enough.  Technology enables us to not stop and extend our persons to the stranded motorist.  It frees us from a sense of the obligatory:  I don’t need to stop and have a conversation, I’ve made the phone call letting someone know of the existence of a stranded motorist.  Help is on the way.  (Give myself a mental pat on the back.)

No Good Deed

Sometimes, when we want to help someone, we worry. After all, there are good reasons the Good Samaritan Law came into being – in summary, ‘No good deed goes unpunished’.  Am I guilty of having overextended myself when I’m asked to give the vehicularly-challenged a ride to a destination that’s not in the direction of my own?  What am I taking on when there are children involved?  If I find myself alone in a car with a stranger that might be high, intoxicated, mentally ill or emotionally unstable?  Even before the internet, drivers had been made much more aware of the “diversity” out there.

Maybe our decision to actually physically stop or not stop is not a matter of ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Maybe it’s just a matter of personal judgement that makes sense for the situation and that moment.  Still, without having taken the time for a one-to-one connection, have I erred on the side of omission?  Will the motorist I now see in my rearview mirror suffer because of my neglect?  Am I my brother’s keeper?