August 26, 2015

The Profound Real Meaning of “Rubbernecking.”

a car accident in the snow

You’ve probably experienced that thing on the highway called “rubbernecking,” right?

It’s that thing that happens around highway accidents when people slow down on both sides of the highway as they pass the scene.

At least that’s how we’ve defined the phenomenon…with a negative connotation of judgment and annoyance. But, is there another way to perceive the same reality?

Is there a deeper meaning?

Now, I don’t usually drive. I live in New York City. But, we’ve been staying in New Jersey for the past couple of weeks and I’ve been behind the wheel of a car more than I’ve been in a long time.

The other day I was driving my kids to a miniature golf park. We were driving along the New Jersey Parkway at two o’clock in the afternoon when all of a sudden the traffic started slowing down. Unfamiliar with this road, I didn’t know what was going on.

Within a short time, it became clear that there were three cars pulled over on the shoulder and two ambulances parked there too.

At first, I was curious about what happened. I saw that it was just a minor “fender-bender.” No-one looked hurt.

Then, I was relieved. No one was hurt. And, my driving annoyance-anxiety was alleviated too as I realized why the traffic had slowed.

Then, I noticed something else within myself. I watched as, on both sides of the road, drivers passed the scene with a distinct sense of acknowledgement, even deference.

I myself had been in a rush, hurrying to my destination, hoping to arrive sooner, rather than later. And, to slow down, at this moment became for me, and for others, a way to acknowledge our shared human frailty.

As I drove along at half-speed passing the scene, I had the sudden image of a flag flown at half-mast. Driving at half-speed was like flying a flag at half-mast!

And, that’s why we fly a flag at half-staff, as a symbolic gesture of mourning acknowledging a tragic occurrence.

I suddenly realized why we have an instinctive desire to slow down to half-speed as we pass a tragic occurrence on our highways. We are instinctively honoring a tragedy, which means we are instinctively recalling our own human frailty as well.

There’s little point rushing toward our chosen destination if we forget our own humanity along the way. And, sometimes, we receive reminders.

It’s just a question of how we read these reminders, how we perceive our experience, and how we interpret our reality.

Do we perceive our life experience with negative judgment, with annoyance, or with a realization that all is happening for our own progression and enlightenment?

My entire experience driving on the New Jersey Parkway shifted once I realized the deeper meaning of why people were slowing down. It shifted from annoyance to a profound sense of shared human connection.

And so it is for our lives in general, to create profound shifts in our own life experience is as simple as shifting the lens with which we see our reality.

In a new light, we can see the deeper meaning of what we’re experiencing. When we do that, we may see something profound that gives a whole new meaning to our lives.

What reminders of your life purpose and your life’s meaning have you received recently? Have you interpreted them, at first, with negativity and judgment? And, have you been able to shift your perspective to a profound sense of appreciation instead?



How I Find Compassion in the Chaos


Author: Alexander Hamilton Dunlop

Editor: Travis May

Image: tornage.us

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