Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews   entry Sept 2015   Allegro ma non troppo #28  (original pub. date, Lion Magazine, 1990-95)

Zen Driving               


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) If you are frazzled by freeways, maybe you should try Zen. That's the advice two brothers are giving in Zen Driving, a book that explores how harried drivers can enjoy life in the not-so-fast lane. No religious conversion is necessary for this "moving meditation," say Kevin and Todd Berger. In Zen Driving, they say, you simply accept a traffic jam and become one with it. A master of the art might even learn to see all the honking and crowding as a path to enlightenment
a sort of Nirvana on wheels. If somebody cuts you off, you simply acknowledge your anger and then let it go; you're aware of what you experience and you experience what you're aware of.

Gradually the Earth turns. Slowly the line of traffic manifests itself and languidly unflows to a stop. Ceases to move. As the space between heartbeats. Becomes, nay, is one with the asphalt beneath it. There is no movement. Quietly, joyously, I feel the warmth of my rage inform my accepting self that I am here forever. My spleen runneth over.  I feel my forehead touch the steering wheel, banging softly and rhythmically against it, swaying gently like the komota tree in a tropical breeze. Car horns diffuse through me like a temple gong, stilling samodaya, the unease that ariseth from the realisation of the imperfection of existence and other drivers.

Old images and old attachments fall away. My left rear tail-light falls away. It laughingly tinkles onto the ground, expanding into its given second of my consciousness and is one with it. Accepted. I have no urge to speak or think. I whimper. I am close to nirodha, the cessation of desire. This, too, I accept. I am late for work, anyway.

I recall the admonition of the sages: Wherever and whenever the mind is found attached to anything, make haste to detach yourself from it. My side-view mirror detaches itself from my car as an unaccepting motorcycle squeezes by. This is anitya, the impermanence of all things. I accept this and transcend the narrow illusion of attachment that one part of my car should be joined to another.

I am hit from behind. It is like the clear, resounding whack from the kyosaku, the master's "awakening stick". Another step on the path of continuously unfolding enlightenment. After a long and careful search for atman—selfand a dispassionate look at the nature of reality, I finally see through a rear-view glass darkly. The other driver is bigger than I am. I bow in humility. I am forgiving. I am afraid.

The wheel of Dharma turns even as I sit. The wheels of other cars are turning even as I sit. They are cutting in front of me. Yea, I am the bodhisattva: one who, on the threshold of nirvanaof exiting forever from the endless cycle of mortal traffic jamsdeliberately sets aside entrance into the final blissful fast-lane and compassionately stays behind to devote himself to the release of others.

I will never get home.

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added - from Warren J. on July 24,2018        On the Road with Maxwell

Some years ago, on my way to Stuttgart, I sat in a traffic jam on Autobahn 8.  It afforded me the opportunity to reflect on the Holland Tunnel.  As vehicles crowd into the tunnel, their average speed  increases until the traffic density reaches its peak and everything slows down, ultimately to a standstill. I was on a roll going nowhere, and so I let my mind wander through Maxwell's equations.  A sociologist had recently published a paper using Maxwell to calculate "distance traveled times population density as an indicator of interaction frequency."  As I thought about it, traffic edged towards the turn-off to A-7.  No doubt, the countryside caught my eye along with an additional solution to the Maxwell analogy. Distance traveled times the square-root of population density allows identical solutions in kilometers and miles, dispensing with an artificial constant.

My mission in life was almost accomplished. I needed only to solve the generalization of the one-third hypothesis. And just in time, too. Having correctly predicted the London riots I decided to profess no more forever. Mathematics is too dangerous. It allows you to know things in advance of their happening.  I judge, by looking at my bankbook, I will soon be in the poor house.  As more and more intellectuals crowd in and join me there, their jabber will at first increase and later abate.

I hear the sound of silence.


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