Friday, May 10, 2013
The Everyday Chaos of the Individualist-Oriented Society
Gas, brake, honk. Gas, brake, honk. Honk, honk, punch. Gas, gas gas.
I was out of town last weekend and upon driving back south along I-95 got stuck in one of those increasingly-common lane merges. They're increasingly common because the Obama administration is constantly funding construction and road repair projects in a corrupt sop to its union backers, but that's another story.
So my brother and I sat back and observed the usual goings-on in this situation. I would rate this lane merge at about average, not particularly botched, yet the typical irksomeness of the inability of fellow drivers to work in unison to efficiently orchestrate the merge was well on display.
You've seen it yourself, you know what I mean. The right lane was ending and merging into the left. It starts off with several cars in the right lane panicking and diving into the left lane as soon as they can with the desperation of a drowning man gasping for air. This adds a completely unneeded tension to the situation and forbids the slowed yet smooth progression of the merge.
Then, as the right lane nears its end and cars really do need to merge in a tidy one-and-one progression, you have the guy in the left lane riding the bumper of the vehicle in front of him and adamantly refusing to allow a car on the right in. This is always accompanied by the stone-faced resolve of this obtuse personage, with visage set straight ahead as if he doesn't even realize you are there even though you and he both are fully aware that he knows exactly what he is doing. This specimen of modern man absolutely cannot grasp the notion that it is people exactly like this who contribute to the prolonged tie-up that has inconvenienced HIM in the first place.
I attended a liberal Catholic high school and was exposed to a "feel-good" form of Catholicism that was totally bereft of heft or gravitas. However, one such lightweight lesson did strike a chord with me. I recall a teacher comparing Heaven and Hell by describing each as a huge banquet with a limitless supply of the most delicious food imaginable. The catch was the utensils were elongated to the point where you could not use them to eat the food yourself. The only difference between Heaven and Hell in the example was that in Hell the people desperately and eternally tried to manipulate the useless utensils to grab the food they desired and eat it themselves, failing again and again, while in Heaven the people were calmly using the utensils to grab the food for those across the table and feeding them, and were in turn fed themselves.
As an image of Eternal Life I find this lacking as Heaven to me is being in the Presence of God not sharing Kumbaya moments, but as an example of the interconnectivity of people paving the way for a more efficient society beneficial to all it hit the nail right on the head.
We have become so self-absorbed in this society today, so locked into our individual pods, that we can't even coordinate a simple traffic situation without generating frustration. We like to laugh at the "primitive" and "superstitious" past. What fools we are. A people of shared values united around a spiritual polestar never had to deal with the everyday draining experiences that come with our selfish age. We are daily exposed to small acts of pique and annoyance that when totted up result in a corroded culture filled with suspicion and rage.
Good luck on the drive home today.