As a truck driver, I'd had a couple close calls driving aggressively and long ago decided I better lay off. I first fixed that by aggressively preventing other drivers from being aggressive. Sounds logical, right? Eventually, I just went through a phase of really resenting the drivers who were aggressive, or ignorant of the finer points of traffic law, or just plain stupid. Really, it was about how I was a better driver than them. It was probably always something like that. Finally, I've reached the point where I am just bewildered by how some people drive. I'm not perfect, of course, but I've improved my intention.
The “crucible of reactivity” was going to be the perfect excuse for me occasionally losing my shit behind the steering wheel. Every once in a while it creeps up on me. And then I heard an old Zen story. Old Zen stories will always get you. The good ones are so stripped down, so human, that you can immediately recognize yourself in one of the characters. This Zen story is in two parts. In the first, you are out fishing in your canoe when you start to feel a little sleepy. You drop an anchor and lie down to take a quick nap. Just as you're about to drift off to sleep, you feel a great clunk and jump up to see that another fisherman has carelessly run his canoe into yours. “What the hell are you doing? Are you stupid? You're a danger to all of us out here?” [sound familiar?]
The second story is nearly the same, you are out fishing in your canoe when you discover that you're a little sleepy. You drop an anchor and lie down to take a quick nap. Just as you're about to drift off to sleep, you feel a great clunk and jump up! “What the … oh.” Its a log that has drifted down the river and bumped into your boat. You lie back down and take a peaceful nap.
What is the difference between the other fisherman and the log? Absolutely nothing. We have no more control over the behavior of the other fisherman than we have of the log. We can try to argue, like I was going to about other drivers, that the other fisherman should be polite, be responsible, follow the rules. Can we ever make someone else follow the rules? Or especially, can we make them follow the rules in the way that we would want them to?
We can't. We also don't have any idea what is on the other fisherman's mind or what's going on in his the life. There are a thousand things that could be on his mind stressing him to distraction. Can we blame him? Can we expect him to do what we want?
Then why are we giving the log a pass and not the other fisherman?