Driving is a lesson in humility. We wish
the world were built to satisfy our every need. There should be
no red lights facing our direction, only green. The roads should
be cleared of excess cars that might constitute for us an impediment.
Surprise! As soon as we begin to drive we are disabused of this
delusion. We must wait at lights, take turns with other drivers,
cope with traffic jams. Whether in a sub-compact or a pricey limousine
we share the road equally with countless others. Where else does
such democracy rule?
Driving is a lesson in self-honesty. We may take pride in our kind and generous nature but don a cloak of anonymity (since you do not know the other drivers, or they, you) and the beast within emerges. We may find ourselves honking, cursing, and falling into all kinds of sexist, racist, classist, and ageist forms of stereotyping and condemnation. Love thy neighbor? Hah! Not on the highway. Road rage is more like it, for this one drives too slow, delaying us with her dilly-dallying, and that one is too fast, riding our tail like a macho cowboy. Terrible drivers, each and every one. It rarely occurs to us that our neighbors, blessed with the self-same mentality, think we are the ones driving amiss.
Driving is a lesson in prudence. Finally, we must deal with the reality that the road does not belong to us alone -- that we must accept our neighbor, adjust to his or her patterns. We must or else we die. In ordinary life, we can steamroll others. Get out of my way, bud, I'm coming on through. Try that on the road, and you risk substantial expense, inconvenience, bodily injury, even death. If driving gives license to our insane side, it also provokes communal sanity as we seek to preserve life and limb.
So next time you're driving, realize there's no better spiritual exercise -- no better way to exorcize your demons of impatience, pride and selfishness. Can you accept your neighbor; be courteous and giving; forgive the faults of others; be humble about your own skills and tendencies; work well with fellow drivers to facilitate everyone's progress; accept life's red lights and traffic jams with equanimity; and know that it matters little to arrive a few moments early, but it matters much that the journey be good? To learn to drive well is to learn how to live.
When you next drive notice what triggers your frustration and why. Using whatever aids you (such as prayer, deep breathing, focused intent, soft music) try to practice a bit more patience and courtesy than you otherwise might. See how the quality of your journey changes.