Accepting our fate

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Traffic this morning on 580 West is at a dead stop. Not merely the kind of stop where you turn off your engine, but the kind of stop where you can get out and take a little walk if so choose. There’s a big accident on the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge – apparently involving a big rig and several cars – and both lanes are blocked. Happened about an hour or so ago.

Traffic was still moving very slowly a while, but I reckon those were the folks who were trying to make a break for the last exit before the bridge. Perhaps they were going to take one of the really long (20 mile or so) detours, or stop and have breakfast at any of our fine dining establishments here in Point Richmond, or just plain give up. But, now that that they have moved on, all that are left are those who have decided to accept their fate and wait it out.

People are getting out of their cars. Some just standing. Some getting something out of the trunk. And others have formed a group. Is this an angry mob? They seem pretty animated. Oh wait, they’re laughing. What’s this? Two guys are headed towards each other? Are fisticuffs about to break out? Oh, he’s just handing the other guy his cell phone. More clusters of two or more people are forming, all looking very friendly. For what is probably a very frustrating situation, people seem pretty calm.

Sure, they have ever right to curse the heavens, Cal-Trans and the Highway Patrol. I mean, all their well laid plans have gone awry. They have places to go, people to see, for cryin’ out loud. But, instead, they are at a dead stop on the freeway. The smart ones, the ones who have opted not to add to their suffering, seemed to have just accepted the situation and are taking the opportunity to share a laugh with some strangers or to help out the guy in the next car.

I’ve been feeling a little downhearted about the state of the world lately. But, between the CA Supreme Court ruling yesterday striking down the ban on gay marriage, and the calm, patient drama outside my window, maybe things aren’t so bad after all.

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7 responses »

  1. Yes, it’s incredible – some people just seem to be able to switch on their patient acceptance without any effort at all. And they don’t even have the benefit of Buddhist teachings. I can only rejoice in their merit and their wisdom, because I struggle with that a lot.

  2. Crazy how a simple thing like a traffic jam can get people out of their cars and talking to each other. A frustrating thing can make friends out of complete strangers. I can’t see that as a bad thing at all.

    Perhpaps you are right, the world isn’t so bad as long as we are making the best out of what we have.

  3. happy traffic jams earth quakes and cyclones 2 u ~ die zasters of all sizes seams to bring out the best and worst in us = kinda like the prince that broke his leg by falling off his prized gift horse?

  4. Robin – 🙂 right back atcha.

    Ron – I think all people are capable of spontaneous wisdom and compassion. As Buddhists we simply say it is their Buddha nature making itself known, others may call it God, and other just basic human decency. We call it patient acceptance, others may call it letting go and letting god, yet others say just making the best of a bad situation.

    Adam – I always find it interesting when something ceases to function in the way we think it should function. Normally, a freeway functions as to get us from point A to point B relatively quickly. But, in this case, the freeway became a parking lot. I think the people who were the happiest were the ones who were able to quickly adjust to this change and did what they would do in a parking lot and got out of their cars. Since there was no where to go, they just hung out and chatted with the other stranded folks. The ones who sat in their cars and seethed, probably still were expecting the freeway to function as a freeway and were really frustrated that it wasn’t. Just a theory.

    Marshmellows – Seems to me that in big disasters our first instinct – to help others – is our best. It isn’t until we have had a bit of time to process that all the fear and anger settle in. I honestly believe that immediately after 911 was some of our country’s finest moments – the outpouring of compassion was astounding. After the shock wore off, well, not so much.

  5. Funny how traffic jams work out some time. I was caught in a horrific one, one summer. People were playing Frisbee among the parked cars. There’s a lot to be said for accepting your fate.

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