I have always considered the virtue “Awareness of Impact” as a sign of maturity. Children do not initially notice the impact they have on their environment. They don’t notice their parents’ exhaustion as infants and toddlers. Or that their aunts, uncles, grandparents and neighbors quickly and silently remove harmful items from ground level when they visit. Those of us who are childless often imagine that parents lose this awareness concerning their children in public places. And adults everywhere wonder about this lack of awareness among adolescents. But for the most part, we as a culture expect adults to have this awareness. The reality however is that most adults in this culture are blissfully unaware past some arbitrarily low limit.
This lack of awareness struck me just now as I moved my car in anticipation of the street cleaners. Every Tuesday and Wednesday here in my urban neighborhood, my neighbors and I engage in a well rehearsed dance – moving our cars from one side to the other to escape a parking ticket. And so I had to move my car from the side of the street that will be cleaned today. So I started up my car, checked for traffic, and pulled into the alley in preparation for backing into the space in front of my house. I have done it a thousand times. I normally can do it so seamlessly that several of my neighbors have commented that they wished they could drive like me.
But today something happened. A single car, when I checked in both directions, was just about a block a way when I began backing into the street. But he was driving so fast that by the time I was slipping into the space, he was right up on me. He was driving so fast that I stopped completely. I stopped to make him stop. I wanted some wiggle room in case I needed to pull forward again, and he was already too close already. So once I was sure he would stop, I continued backing up, but as I backed up he drove forward just as fast. So by the time I was in the space he was beside my car. We each stopped and looked at each other.
I was annoyed, but I was not really angry. That is when it hit me. He was looking at me the way I was looking at him. After a short pause, he pulled off and I pulled forward to straighten my wheels.
Then I sat there for a moment. I reviewed everything that happened and then it hit me. He thought *I* had done something wrong. He may very well have thought that he was completely in the right. Oh okay, now that made me very angry. Then another thought entered my mind, he then had no idea what the impact of his actions had on me.
What if I had been like those neighbors of mine, and needed to pull in and out a couple of times to completely park? What if the space had not been big enough for my car and I had needed to pull up to another parking space? What if I had panicked and hit one of the cars on either side of me? Now the anger passed and I was back in amazement.
And what was my impact on him? I made him wait as I parked my car. In fact if I had not stopped, I would have been out of his way by the time he reached my car. Maybe he had timed it just right for that eventuality? So in effect, I was as completely unaware as he.
So I came back inside and sat a bit before returning to my work.
Where else am I blind to my own impact? What if all the things that bug me about life, about people and about this entire freaking culture was the result of this lack of awareness on all our parts?
I lit some incense and turned inward with prayer. I pray that the gods increase my awareness of the impact of my actions on myself and on those around me. And I also pray that I slow down enough to become aware of others as I travel on my journeys and wanderings. And I thank that fast driving man for showing me a slice of my own blindness. Ashe. Blessed Be.