The cyclist sailed straight off of the pavement and onto the road. Thankfully, I’d seen him look over his shoulder and was already braking, otherwise it could have been messy. I drive a fair bit and have, over the years, learned, as you do, to read and anticipate what is going on around me. It doesn’t mean I’ll always get it right, it just means I am, like the vast majority of drivers, keeping my eyes open and hoping that if I get it wrong, it will be no worse than an embarrassment.
There is a design flaw in my car too; the pillars either side of the windscreen are so wide that from the driver’s seat they can block an entire car from sight if it is, for instance, coming round a bend or a roundabout. After the first close shave with that, I became even more careful at corners and junctions. It would only take a momentary inattention for a disaster to happen. You could say that by paying attention to known potential problems, I am much more likely to avoid them.
What you can’t predict are the unexpected actions of other road users or unforeseeable events on the road. Then, all you can do is allow that instinctive reaction that has been shaped by habit and training to take over and hopefully avoid an accident. There may not be time to think and it is that training that saves the day when a deer runs out of the undergrowth… or a cyclist sails into the road.
We do the same sort of training through habituation and experience with our personalities too. We learn early when to ‘put on the brakes’ or slow down for a corner. We learn how to pause and observe at a crossroads, considering our options and trying to see our way clear beyond the choices that are presented to us. It is all part of growing up and our underlying character… daring, timid, curious or blasé, will determine how fast or how slowly we take our corners as our personality grows into itself.
There are always the ‘blind spots’ too… like the windscreen pillars that prevent us from getting a clear view in certain situations. They are personal to each one of us and are determined both by experience and how we have first reacted to it, then learned from it, as much as by what really motivates us and the underlying needs of the personality.
Most of us come up against those blind spots with alarming regularity and quite often it is others who see them before we do… just as a passenger riding alongside us in a vehicle will have a slightly different view and perspective of the road than we who are driving.
It is not until we ourselves become aware of the blind spots that we are able to factor them into our choices and behaviour, but once we are aware, then it is difficult to overlook them when they come into play.
We may find ourselves going round in circles; the circumstances different every time, but an underlying current is essentially the same and stems from our own inner needs… for reassurance, for love, for freedom or validation. The real reasons for these cyclical events are not external but lie deep within our own heart and mind. The only way to stop going continually round the roundabout is to break the cycle and find an exit… and we can’t do that till we know where we are… and where we are trying to reach.
Anyone can make a car move by learning the basic controls, but it takes training to learn how to drive safely on the roads. You can learn on your own on private land, read the books on road safety and observe what others do, but it is not until you are in heavy traffic and driving at speed that you really understand what driving a car is all about. And at that point it is both useful and reassuring to have a qualified driver sitting next to you. It only on the roads that you truly become aware of the potential problems and develop the habits and training that let you see them before they occur and know how to either avoid or lessen their impact.
Although the analogy is close, it isn’t perfect where life is concerned. You can learn from experience… there are no private roads, as everything any of us may do with have some impact on others. Books alone can do nothing to teach us how to live, but books in conjunction with our own understanding can teach a very great deal when we apply what we have learned to our lives. And sometimes it is both useful and reassuring to have someone beside you who knows the roads and its pitfalls.
Friendship is a great teacher, founded as it is in trust. Experience is an effective teacher… but it is not always painless. Schools, groups and organisations, such as the Silent Eye, can travel with you and provide guidance. But the best teacher is the unseen presence of the back-seat driver in every one of us, who sees both the driver and the road and just happens to have the perfect map. Learning to listen to its silent direction will get us where we need to be.