September 17, 2016

Lately I've been thinking about forms of empathy in everyday life, of whether an assumption of competition vs cooperation is good for us: pragmatically, but especially emotionally.

The examples that come most easily to mind are traffic-related. You're stuck behind some left-turner, look for your chance to scoot around to the right lane so that you can go straight, and some putz from behind you zips on up and takes your chance. It's easy to feel frustrated and annoyed by that, and to feel that you've somehow "lost" to that person. But what if you were able to view it as a little victory, either for them, or for local car-driving humanity in general?

Stupid? Naive? Maybe. I mean, from an evolutionary standpoint, we have a lot of cooperation in our history, but also a mandate to be on watch against cheaters, people who will take advantage of us, people who carry and struggle for their own agendas that we may actively disagree with, maybe even people with enough awareness of our own Kumbaya that they can leverage it for their own purposes with a blatant disregard for reciprocity. And few of us want to feel like that kind of fool.

Still, I think it might be a useful attitude to carry. I've been finding ways to douse "road rage" with thoughts like "Waiting Is" (time stuck waiting is still time, it's not some untime that is inherently valueless, even if we are impatient to get to somewhere else, eager for some event to occur) and adding in a dose of perspective - i.e. keeping in mind Homer Simpson's reaction to a traffic jam, the utterly furious "Lousy minor setback! This world sucks!", and how that's a kind of natural but short sighted way to be... and being aware how my brain is SO damn good at coming up with "alternate realities" that remove those little inconveniences. All that helps, but that feeling of "losing" to the other driver still stings. If I can share in their victory, or see it as a general positive for driver-kind, I'll be a happier and more generous person.

I'm not there yet, but hippy and Eastern ideas like "we are all one" make more sense to me, even if I have to wade hipdeep through my flavor of Western Rationalism to get there.