The Zen of Everythingâ„¢, Day 2: Two-fear Tuesday

uh-oh Part the first: Fear of the Unknown

Around 4pm, I was crossing the street, wondering why no lessons had made themselves known to me yet (was I so close to enlightenment I perhaps needed none?) when I narrowly missed being mowed over by a high-end SUV.

The driver was mortified. He went white as a sheet, seriously, I saw it happen, even through the high-end tint on the windshield, and his eyes opened wide and he made the "oops" face (a.k.a. mea motherf*cking culpa), and he kept mouthing an apology even after I smiled and waved.

Now, the lesson wasn't that I stayed calm because I wasn't pressed for time, nor that he was wildly apologetic/remorseful as opposed to angry and defensive because I stayed calm. It wasn't even that SUV drivers, or pedestrians, for that matter, should watch where they're going. (Although I'm reasonably sure the reason I was not mowed over was because I was I happened to be paying attention, so, you know, watch it with the volume on the iPods, people.)

The Lesson, which, I swear, came to me in a flash, was that "safe" is an illusion. There is perhaps safer: I'm more likely not to have my house burn down if I don't smoke in bed or roast weenies over the sofa.

But the notion we (and by that I mean "I") generally walk around with, that I am "safe" because of x, y or z, is just that: a notion, and a pretty silly, self-absorbed one at that. Take a big step back from almost any situation and I'll bet you'd see anvils narrowly missing all kinds of Mr. Magoos. People get sick, natural disasters strike, the apocalypse happens. Even if I do a whiz-bang job of saving for the future, it won't mean a damned thing if the bottom falls out of the system. And there's not one thing I can do about that, except choose to live in fear...or not.

I used to not do a whole lot of things out of fear. I do more of the things now, but I still have the fear, which is probably why I got the lesson. No, not great to be struck down by an SUV at four in the afternoon (or ever), and yes, probably good to be alert. But maybe it's time to start dispensing with some of the fear. Because really, outside of those really appropriate times, like reminding you it's not a good idea to walk down a dark, unfamiliar alley or poke the bear with a stick, it doesn't much serve.

LESSON #1: Security is an illusion.

Part, the Second: Fear of the Known

On the way home from Lesson #1, I came across a brown paper Trader Joe's bag lying in the street. Feeling all virtuous and contemplative and stuff, I figured HELL, the BUDDHA wouldn't let this old trash defile the street; he'd carry it to his apartment building and put it in the recycle bin! I am like the Buddha! I will pick up this trash!

But when I did, it felt strangely heavy for an empty paper bag. might not be empty. A pit of sudden and inexplicable dread formed in my stomach. I opened up the bag, peeked inside...and dropped it right back in the street.

LESSON #2: When it comes to dead pigeons, in or out of brown paper bags, I am not like the Buddha.

xxx c

Image by anniebee via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.