During a recent power outage, a traffic light near my apartment complex was temporarily out of commission and could only flash a red stop signal to all lanes.
This is an intersection where 6 lanes of traffic flowing north and sound cross 6 lanes of traffic flowing east and west. That means that if all the lead cars in every lane moved there would be 12 cars entering the intersection at one time.
You can imagine how dangerous a situation this was, yet, as I observed driving to my errand, the flow of traffic flowed in a most orderly fashion; one might even describe it as polite and attentive. It was reminiscent of the refined elegance of the Baroque dances of the 1700s.
I could see a collective intuition taking place. We were feeling into the moves that others were intending to make. Some cars needed to turn left across traffic. Others needed to move straight ahead and others wanted to turn right. Those right-hand turns were the easiest but others had to fully enter the dance and cross over oncoming lanes of traffic.
And remarkably, there was not a single accident. When I returned from my errand and saw that the lights remained inoperable, still no accidents had taken place. In fact, the traffic seemed to have picked up the dance steps and was moving with more confidence.
I was heartened by this incident. We’ve been living in an extremely politicized environment for several years now. People are shouting past one another and deep listening is not on the menu of options served by mainstream media.
The dance at the intersection was a demonstration that, as a collective, we do have access to a different gear of attention and awareness: one that resides beneath the surface of our fears and agitations. This is a place of empathy, kindness, patience, and generosity.
It gives me hope for our collective future and my prayer is that the gentle rains of graceful congeniality and goodwill will nourish us into a more wise, thoughtful, and sensible future.
– Justine Willis Toms