It's not a natural thing

By Joe Tassi | Jan 01, 2011

Liking people does not come naturally to me. It’s not a natural thing for me to embrace our relentlessly flawed humanity. In fact, my most common reaction is to think that most of us are too stupid to take up space on this planet. Harsh, I know.

What redeems me for having these thoughts in the first place, however, is the knowledge that I am just as stupid and I take up just as much space and that my relationship with people is roughly the same relationship that I have with myself. And that revelation is worth some consideration.

In the heat of thought-generated negativity, expecting the worst from people, I have to stop, grab myself by the scruff of my spiritual neck and acknowledge that all I see is a reflection of me. I am them, and they are me. So when I say that liking people does not come naturally to me, it is more correct to say that liking me does not come naturally.

The other day I was parked alongside French and Brawn on Mechanic Street in Camden, one space behind the stop sign and crosswalk. I set the sandwich and a cup of coffee I had just bought in the seat and cup holder next to me. I put my seat belt on, started the engine and I turned to look behind me before I pulled out. I judged that I had plenty of room to pull out from my parking spot and pull up to the stop sign, even with a car coming up from behind. To my astonishment, like a late hit on a quarterback, after I was clear of the curb, a young woman driving a car full of young women, decided to give me a long blast of her horn.

Startled by that, I looked back again to see what or if I had missed something, to see if I had actually somehow impeded her progress to the stop sign. Again to my surprise, the young woman was screaming profanity at me and then flipped me the bird.

I carry a two-foot long piece of two-inch pipe with me in the truck, a tool for my boat but also a throwback from my many years of living in aggressive cities. My immediate internal impulse was to wrap my hands around that pipe and bolt out onto the street and see if she really had the stomach for a confrontation with a crazed man.

Of course I didn’t get out of the truck. I swallowed hard, checked my ego and waited for traffic to pass before proceeding to make a right turn onto Elm Street. Before I could shake that encounter entirely off, I became aware that an older gentleman (and I am 56, so for me to call this guy older means that he was in his late 60s or early 70s) was crawling up my six with his Mercedes and is trying to pass me over a double yellow line while we headed toward Rockport.

I was not the cause of the traffic compaction. There were cars in front of me. All of which, I might add, were moving at the posted speed limit. He was from out of state, an "M" state, and I don’t mean Michigan, Maryland, Montana or Mississippi.

Where is he trying to go, I exclaimed. Can’t he see there is traffic in front of me? Is he so completely out of touch that he expects all the traffic on Route 1 to clear a path just for him? He should have by now acquired the wisdom to calm himself by accepting moments as they unfold. I turned off of Route 1 and went home. Enough temptation to pull out the pipe for one afternoon I thought.

Within minutes of each other, I experienced an angry young woman and an angry old man, and an anger that resonated from deep inside of me. Those two seemingly unrelated occurrences appeared to reinforce the premise that there are a lot of angry people out there. Do they even know what they are angry about?

I concluded that they must be angry at the same things I am angry about, such as politicians who say nothing, elections that change nothing, and watching helplessly as our futures become less certain, wondering what will happen to us if the world, our societal structure as we understand it stops functioning.

What will become of our children? How do we survive the congressional and corporate demolition of our middle class lives? How do we overcome the media assault on our intellect? And how do we answer a young person who looks to their teachers, to us, for answers about life and love, or how to resolve relationship based conflict with a national divorce rate of 50 percent. What should they hope for?

What then must we do to live past our anger? Let me suggest first, that we call anger what it is: fear. And fear is defined as an unpleasant, often strong, emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger. The symptoms of fear are easy enough to recognize. When we disapprove and judge becoming the authoritative critic of ourselves and others, we are attempting to gain control over other people and events. More to the point, we are trying to maintain control over our perceived self, our persona, the ego. And until we can better understand the ego, anything that threatens the ego’s survival, causes fear.

I have conjectured that it is possible that there is only me, or only you, if you prefer. And that everything we think we can see, touch, and understand is an illusion, a creation of our thinking minds. If I run into someone who is angry and honking her horn, or tailgating, it is really me. In other words, it is my anger, my fear that is projecting back at me.

The beauty of this idea is that there is not a whole big world of angry humans out there to fix, control, manipulate or blame. We have only to observe and understand that our anger is the work of the thinking mind, attempting to prop up the illusion of the ego. And in that simple act of observation, watching our thinking minds and egos at work from a place of detachment we experience an awakening.

In the meantime, stop honking your horn and cursing and stay in the M state!



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Comments (1)
Posted by: Peter Berke | Jan 02, 2011 22:44


We only need a couple of really good friends in this little world that we all share. I'm lucky and glad to say you are my friend!...Pete


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