It was an early summer afternoon. Close to 1 PM. I was jogging on a bike path in the north ward direction. The summer sun was really hot, almost directly up above, perhaps just a little off the apex and barely to my left. As a result, there was scarcely any shade on the right side of the bike path. If I had to stick to the normal rules of the road, I had to stay to the right side and be under the direct sun light. There are not too many bushes on either side of this narrow paved road used by bikers and joggers and walkers. The few small bushes along the path were casting a small but tempting shade on the left side of the road.
One could choose to admonish me for my choice of timing for the jog under the hot sun, or the path I chose or why I was headed north instead of the south in the middle of the day. I accept all that as mere facts of my life at that moment. I had to pay the price for my choices. The laws of nature are consistent for all. I could not expect the sun to offer any help or find extra amount of shade. I could pray for some cloud cover, but that was not in the nature of the weather for that particular day. Being where I was, doing what I was doing, I had no choice but endure the hot rays of the shining sun. That was my Karma for the day, for the moment!
Just wait a minute. I am a thinking person. I do have choices and I did make my choice. No, I did not choose to stop my jogging or turn around. Instead I chose to run on the left side of the road, trying to catch the occasional spots of shade and the cool comfort that I could draw from it. My choice was informed to the extent that I needed the shade and I knew where I could get it. It was biased in the sense that I insisted on continuing to run, despite the better wisdom suggesting that I terminate this effort or at least postpone it for a better time or choose an alternate path with better shade. What I did not know was my ignorance, which I will be exposed to shortly.
As I continued my jogging, I observed another jogger approaching me from the opposite side. I had passed many such joggers as well as bicyclists and walkers earlier on this day. None seemed to care for my temporary violation of the rules of the road. I tried my best to nudge to my left. But, that is exactly what he needed to – to nudge to his right – to catch the sparse shade. This encroachment into his comfort zone – literally – must have annoyed him. He shouted “You are on the wrong side”. The sound seemed louder than normal. It took me a few seconds to absorb that and I shouted back, “I know”. By the time I uttered my words, he had already gone past me and we were moving further away from each other. In fact, he did not seem to care or did not even show any signs that he might have even heard me. His lack of acknowledgement of my response bothered me, more than his earlier indignant admonition! As we were approaching each other, his admonition sounded louder than normal. As we receded away from each other, my response should have sounded feebler than I had intended. In other words his words and its timing had more of an effect on me, than the other way around.
For that moment, I was totally ignoring my own choices earlier and its logical consequence (the admonition) from another person affected by my action. I was willing to confront the one person, who chose to remind me of my incorrect choice and treat him as my enemy. More than that I was willing to accept the many that had chosen to ignore my violation of the rules and treat them as my friends. Indeed this is the true sign of ignorance.
Through lack of understanding, the reasoning or wisdom which leads one to conclude inappropriate activities as appropriate and everything else in reverse, such reasoning is described as out of ignorance. B.G. 18.32
My experience of that moment may not be of much consequence or significance. But, it should give me a pause to reflect on other aspects of life. Are there occasions where we regard those who point out our own folly as our enemy or some one to be disliked? Do we treat those who are not objective enough to point out our follies as the preferred one, even though such action is truly avoidance of their responsibility? Knowledge when it exists becomes evident on its own accord through the positive effects it creates. Bias is also easier to identify, due to its direct and visible consequences in terms of the emotional response it elicits. Ignorance on the other hand requires serious introspection and reflection. Small incidents in life give us an opportunity to learn about our ignorance – the blind spots – and hence prepare us to look for the same in other larger aspects of life.
The person who pointed out that you were jogging on the wrong side -saw the event as -a) someone breaking common practice rules, b) did not take the time to think that perhaps there could be a reason why you were on the wong side and c) acted impulsively on that thought and made the statement loud enough. His reaction was perhaps due to a “lack of understanding” .
Whether it was an admonishment or just a statement was your perception! (perhaps his tone, annoyed look). Like you said, you would not have minded the correction if you had genuinely made a mistake. ‘”Our natural reaction is to defend ourselves!!! yes, our blind spots.
Now,the people who did not say anything to you, chose to ignore this event as a minor inconvenience, perhaps understood why you were on the wrong side, or chose not to act impulsively to their first reaction of annoyance. Their action may not be avoidance of responsibilty -rather choosing to pick their battles.
In our interractions with people we conciously choose to ignore minor follies. Sometimes we use humor to convey a message.
“So a man takes advice and contradiction much more easily than people think. Only he will not bear it when violently given even if it is well founded. Hearts are flowers; they remain open to the softly falling dew but shut up in the violent downpour of rain” . J.P Richter
Your thoughtful comments are right on the mark! The jogger (myself), the person who shouted “You are on the wrong side” and the many who passed by without comment are all involved in this incident. The connectors – Knowledge, Bias and Ignorance – of each with respect to this incident forms the basis of the “Experience” of each. In your reply, you have clearly articulated the ways in which a neutral observer of all three parties can look for evidences of these connectors with respect to each party. In that sense, each of is the particpant in the event, observer, the judge (who upholds the rules of analysis) and the jury (who arrives at the decision) in each incident. The common entity across all these – the participant, observer, the judge and the jury as seen in each of the three parties – is the Consciousness or the laws of nature which merely exist as the enabler of activities as well as the observation and analysis and conclusion. One who understands this frame work and is able to see such a frame work in any situation the scriptures call him/her as “enlightened”.
The above could have been the concluding paragraph to my essay. But, it was enabled thanks to your very insightful and thoughtful comments. Bravo!