On Thursday last, my younger son, Ives, 18, got into a car accident. He was driving two of his friends back to the high school along rain-slicked roads when a 70-odd-year-old man overruled a stop sign and pulled out of a side street to the right. Ives hit the brakes, swerved to the right in an attempt to miss the car, but was not entirely successful. His left front and the man's left rear crunched together. No one was significantly hurt (speeds were in the 25-30 mph range), though one boy riding with Ives had a concussion and Ives is due for a concussion examination tomorrow. The man driving the other car allegedly tried to pin the accident on "kids," but it was he who blew the responsibilities of the stop sign. As catastrophes went, this was minor stuff.
But of course two cars smacking together was not the end of it. Worse than the insurance forms I spent time gathering and having Ives fill out, there was the emotional impact -- the shattering in an instant of all sorts of assumptions ... I know what I am doing; I am safe; I am in control; I will never die ... echo, echo, echo, echo.
When I first heard about the matter, my mental stomach lurched. I too had assumptions: That my child was safe; that he was in no danger; that he was a pretty good driver; that going to and from school was no big deal and I could put my attention elsewhere. As a parent, I would pretty much rather that anything untoward would happen to me rather than my child. If someone's got to feel the pain, let it be me, not him. It's a bit of parental vanity, but it's inescapable ... at least for me.
For Ives, of course, it was a rude awakening. In a split second, a cocoon of axioms was blown away. In a split second, confidence turned to uncertainty, comfort turned to discomfort, ability turned to inability ... and there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it ... much less whine that there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it. Whining comes later. This is 'now.' This is a life-changing experience ... just like any other 'now' except that this 'now' is a 'now' that gets my attention.
Funny how when assessing such an accident event and finding a wider application, there is a sage nodding of the head ... yes indeed, the best laid plans of mice and men do sometimes go awry. Based on experiences little and large, there is a willingness to see that things can be outside any human control ... and the result is assumed to be unpleasant. But there is no similar nodding and assent when things do not go awry. When things do not go awry, well, I can pat myself on the back for my assumptions and axioms. I deserve this ... it's nothing special. No reason to pay it too much mind. It's inconsequential, if not boring.
Bad news receives attention. Good news only proves me right. Bad news leaves me edgy. Good news confirms my earlier confidence and assumptions.
Well, no one was significantly hurt in the accident and the white-light of uncertainty will fade to a whisper as time passes. But I suspect that the edginess and uncertainty of a white-light moment lingers outside our closed doors until we consent to open them freely.
Was it ever any different? How could it possibly be the same?
In Zen, I have heard the saying, "Understanding is knowing to get out of the way of an on-coming bus. Practice is for the bus you didn't see coming." Practice is important: How in the wide-wide world of sports could anyone ever actually see the 'now' bus coming? There are causes, sure. But who could possibly do more than offer a guesstimate about the effect? Wouldn't anything more than a guesstimate be sheer arrogance? So ... plan all you like. No point in being an idjit. But find a way to be at ease with what are blithely labeled "the effects."
Uncertainty and edginess are uncomfortable.
Find the grounded-in-reality comfort zone.