Every time I see a nail or screw laying on the ground my sense of karma takes over. The fear is that if I don’t pick it up and save someone I don’t know from getting a flat tire, karma will exact a brutal lesson by ensuring I get a flat tire at the worst possible moment. Much of my time is spent driving for hours on the highway to and from mine sites. Getting a flat in the middle of a five hour drive in the dead of a Canadian winter is not my idea of a good time to be sure.
The obsession I have with getting a flat tire, or avoiding a flat tire, is a terrible first world burden. Whenever driving I’m constantly checking the tire gauge which shows each tire pressure on the display screen. The slightest pull or shake in the car and I’m pushing the buttons to see if the horrible moment I’ve always feared has arrived. The anxiety rises in my throat, and when the digital image of the car displays on the screen and I see that each tires pressure is exactly where it should be, I breath a sigh of relief and tap the steering wheel in some strange ritual of symbolic victory over the forces of karma.
This has been a pattern in my life for years now. Where does such a thing come from? Who knows? Getting a flat tire on your car is definitely an inconvenience. But is it worth such obsession? Probably not.
Throughout my esoteric learning over the decades there is one thing which has stuck in my mind. This thing has been written about in endless volumes and has shown up in countless movies under varying themes and events. In fact, this one thing is so pervasive in the lives we live that many of us have become immune, or ignorant, to its great opportunity.
What is this thing you ask? I will tell you. But first…
People approach life from various points of view, or view their own interaction through a very preconditioned lens. This is normal. Two of the most common perspectives taken, or lenses used, are spiritualism and realism, or materialism. A recent conversation with a co-worker brought both of these into focus. We were discussing the dominance of one over the other. The position I predominantly approach life from is through the spiritual lens. The position he approached life from was through the lens of realism.
So it was strange that we both agreed that we need to live in the now and enjoy life as it comes at us. This was his realist conclusion, and it was my spiritual conclusion. We both came to the same conclusion from seemingly opposing positions. But life is like that. It teaches us the necessary lessons through whatever event or curriculum is available.
The obvious evolution of life teaching us lessons is that life will inevitably need to test our knowledge retention of those lessons. This is that one thing. We are tested on different levels throughout the duration of our lives. The mechanism which supports this process of testing is not known or recognized and acknowledged for what it is. Most of the time we are unaware that we are in fact being tested. Most of the time we fail these tests.
A complete stranger and random event are both often used to perform the test. Whether these people understand that they are performing a test on someone else, or are consciously performing the test, is open to discussion. Perhaps we ourselves have been used to perform a test on someone at some point in our lives. Interesting to consider.
My most recent test came just two days ago. But five days before that the ground was laid for the test that was to come. It was the morning and I was driving to the gym. At an intersection I was turning left on the green arrow. A man with a cane slowly starting walking across the intersection without the walk signal. I proceeded slowly and was seriously annoyed that this person would break the rules and start walking across the street without the walk signal. It was an inconvenience to me now as I had the arrow and rightfully should have been moving freely through the intersection on my way to the gym. It was leg day, ironically enough.
The man started yelling at me as he made his way to the other side of the street. “Goddamn this…” and “goddamn that…” was all I was able to make out. Rolling down my window I yelled back “I had the arrow. You need to wait for the walk signal.” I passed him by ten feet or so and proceeded down the street in my legless motor vehicle.
The whole thing frustrated me because I believe in rules. This guy, cane or not, broke the rules. Geez. Some people.
Now, this event by itself would have been nothing but a frustrating moment in time. It’s what happened a few days later that made it something so much more.
Walking out of a gas station in a northern city where I often travel I could see a man in a motorized wheelchair coming into the parking lot. Getting in the car I closed the door, buckled my seat belt, and when I looked back up the man was right beside my car waving for me to bring my window down. Feeling uncomfortable at this intrusion into my own life, I begrudgingly lowered the window.
The man asked “I was wondering if you would help me with something?”
“Hmmmm……errrrrr……sure,” I said.
“Awesome. I have a flat tire on my wheel chair and left my legs at home. I was wondering if you could meet me over at the air hose and fill the tire up for me?”
Instantly I noticed that the man had no legs at all. Worn grey pant legs hung empty over the front edge of the seat. Where his lower legs and feet should be was a small plastic crate filled with milk, bread, orange juice, and some other items from the nearby grocery store. Following the man over to the air hose I pulled into a parking stall and got out of the comfort of my high horse car.
As I approached the man and his red motorized wheel chair I could see that one of the front tires was completely flat. I asked if there was a hole in the tire, to which he didn’t respond. He was talking about how he has a friend who works at a tire shop and they give him great deals on the tires, and also said something about “problems you don’t think about if you have legs.”
Pulling the air hose from the wall I bent down beside the tire and removed the cap. The man said that the flat tire had slowed him down all morning and now he was behind schedule. I jokingly responded with “Well, that’s what you get for racing out of the house without your legs.”
The man looked at me with a refreshing tenderness and laughed his fool head off from behind his long grey beard.
The air came out of the hose fast and the tire was small, so I was careful not to overfill it and cause it to blow. Moving to the other side of the wheel chair I noticed the the other front tire was low, but not flat. After topping that one up I had a quick look at the back tires, which looked good. The man thanked me and pulled out from the spot beside the hose and burned back through the parking look as fast as he could go.
Getting back in the car it dawned on me that this may have been one of those life tests. The pieces in my mind starting coming together and I felt shame for initially being annoyed at the interruption. The impatience I felt a few days before with the man walking across the street came back into my mind. The obsession I have with flat tires, nails, and karma added a deeper dimension to the experience.
After pulling out of the parking lot and making my way further down the street I saw the man in the wheel chair blazing down the sidewalk over hard snow and slippery ice. It was like a satire on all the thoughts which were going through my mind.
Like my conversation with the co-worker about living in the now and moment, I also remembered that one of the core functions of life is to be in service to others. It all made me reflect on the long drive home on how fortunate I am to be alive, healthy, and being able to do the things I do in life. There is a pattern in all of this. This was a micro pattern which fits perfectly into the macro pattern which is unfolding in the realization of my own life. Wow. – JC
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JC Collins can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org