essays on suffering and awakening

Another day in the mud

The streets around my apartment building are fairly narrow. Cars are parked along both sides, leaving just enough space for two cars in motion to pass each other. Typically, drivers slow down when approaching each other from opposite directions; the larger car will often pause completely. It’s the sensible thing to do.

So I felt genuinely shocked when, watching one driver carefully making his or her way down the street behind my apartment during crowded evening rush hour, I saw another pull up right behind the first and start blaring his horn, evidently upset with the leading driver’s pace. Once, twice, again and again, the second driver honked as the first navigated through several close encounters with oncoming traffic. That the first car was a 1990s era Toyota Corolla and the second a gleaming silver-matte Mercedes likely not a year away from new added a considerable measure of disgust to the sense of anger I felt already starting to stir.

In a matter of seconds, the cars had passed me, but the honking continued all the way down the block. “Unbelievable,” I thought to myself, along with other choice words. “One person threatening another for trying to drive safely.”

Shortly thereafter, I felt compelled to share my outrage at what I’d just seen with my wife. I expressed my feelings in no uncertain terms, sure in my conviction that such behavior must not be ignored. When I was finished, I waited for her to agree with me.

“That was scary seeing you get angry,” she said.

The situation on the street was what it was. My first reaction to it was what it was. But then I jumped on board with that initial jolt of emotion and started feeding it. In doing so, I embodied not the first driver’s example of careful, deliberate action, but the wild, self-centered impulsivity of the second. I thought I was standing up for what was right, when really, I was just perpetuating what went wrong.

The buck could have stopped with me, but I passed it.

Ian Cooper