Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Commuting and Blessing

As my two weeks of intensive coursework continue for my D. Min., I find the pattern of my existence changed.   The day-to-day rhythms that have risen up over the last eight months of ministry out in Poolesville are temporarily on hold, and perhaps the most significant shift is my sudden return to DC traffic.


I've been spoiled by my rides out to Poolesville.  I look forward to that twice-weekly ride, to humming down country roads on my golden-yellow velocipede.  It's almost embarrassingly bucolic, all trees and fields and farms, cows and bunnies and horsies, roads dappled with sunlight through leaves, a festival of things green and living.

Getting into the city, on the other hand,  I'm slicing my way through snarls, routing around blocked and crowded intersections, and negotiating the barely contained steel and cell-phone chaos of our clogged transportation "system."

The last week has reminded me of and re-immersed me in a spiritual practice I used in those years when I was motorcycle commuting in and out of DC.  There's a strong commuter tendency, one I've fallen into myself on more occasions than I'd like to admit.  When the system locks up, and it's all horns and frustration, it's easy to get into a pattern of routinely invoking the Maker when commuting, coupled with a selection of choice words relating to the dynamics of human sexuality and the organic processes of excretion.  This can be exacerbated on a bike, where the opportunities to distract yourself from the [mess] around you are minimal.

Those bellowing yarps feel good for a moment, but the curses we pour out onto that system don't do anything.  Invoking a smiting upon that [unloved-by-our-creator fornicating fornicator] who just cut us off doesn't make traffic move any swifter, or make us feel any better or more spiritually grounded.  Instead, it heightens our sense of umbrage, deepening our sense of anxiety and frustration.

Instead of taking that approach, I force myself invert that reaction.  Encountering a snarled intersection, I offer up a blessing that traffic might flow and all might be at ease.  When I can tell that guy is going to cut me off, I offer up a hope that he have a peaceful and positive day.   Looking at a long line of brake-lights, I give thanks for my existence, and for patience.

It isn't a natural reaction.  Not at all.  The bared-fang monkey-anger snarl rises up much more naturally.  Resisting it requires practice and discipline, and I don't always remember.

But to be honest?  When I remember not to curse but to bless, and hew to that discipline, traffic doesn't feel as bad.  It just doesn't.   From my blessing-grounded subjectivity,  I am more deeply aware of it, and how deeply the stress of our system invokes stress in other human beings.  But when I arrive where I'm going, I'm not stressed or angry, and I've been less likely to inflict stress on others.