Yoga Chicago / Yoga Musings

Morally Adrift?

Stop Sign

Photo credit: ladybeames

The other night, I took a wonderful Anusara-Inspired class taught by Tomoko Horikawa at Nature Yoga in Wicker Park. Among other things, Tomoko spoke about learning to accept things as they are, instead of judging them or wishing them to be otherwise. This is especially difficult to do when it comes to pain, suffering, or anything we perceive to be “bad.” Just minutes after class, I had an unexpected chance to practice this lesson firsthand.

As I strolled down the street, lost in my post-yoga bliss, something utterly shocking unfolded before my eyes. I heard a scream, and then looked up to see a speeding Mercedes Benz slam into a young woman walking across the street. The car lifted the woman off the ground, and she seemed to hover on the edge of the hood for about 50 feet before the driver even realized what was happening. He slammed on the brakes, and the woman’s body flew off the hood, hit the road, and finally tumbled to stop.

I, and several other passers-by, ran over to the woman — she was obviously in bad shape, but she began talking and seemed to be more or less coherent (although obviously in shock). I won’t go into further details, as I don’t want to sensationalize this horrible accident.

My purpose for posting is to express some thoughts about the driver of the car, a teenager from the local high school. As I and some other witnesses stood on the sidewalk waiting for the police, the young man began to talk to us and demonstrated a rather disturbing lack of concern for the person he’d just run over. His only concern seemed to be himself, and whether he was going to get in any trouble. He speculated that it was likely “in his favor” that he’d come to a complete stop at the stop sign before driving through the intersection. He added that since he hadn’t broken any traffic laws, he shouldn’t be in any real trouble.

The police eventually arrived and spoke to the driver at length. For some reason, though, the police did not bother to take any statements from me or the other eyewitnesses. As the police car drove off, the young man proceeded to brag to us about how he had come clean with the officer because there was “no point in trying to lie, when so many people saw what I did.”

In the 48 hours or so since this all happened, I’ve had a chance to think about the incident and have become increasingly unsettled by the driver’s lack of a moral center. Now, I realize that everyone reacts differently to stress and crisis. And I recognize that the driver is just a kid, probably just barely old enough to operate a motor vehicle.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult for me to be accepting or understanding of this young man’s extreme self-absorption and total lack of compassion for the young lady he’d just run down with his car. Maybe as he grows older, he will mature and develop a moral conscience. But even if he does, there are plenty of others like him, who live by the mantra, “If I can get away with it, then it’s okay.”

This way of living, according to many schools of religious and moral thought, represents a total failure to recognize the agency (divinity, light, etc.) in others. But a lot of people do conduct themselves in this manner.

So what is the “yogic” way to contend with this fact? Should you just accept that some people are morally adrift? Should you refrain from judgement altogether? I still don’t know what to make of all this, but I do know that every time I think about what happened the other night, it stirs up a little rage inside me.

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2 thoughts on “Morally Adrift?

  1. I recently read a quote saying, ‘You can’t judge someone on their actions because everyone has their own morality’. I’ve thought about this everyday for the past two weeks. It’s incredibly difficult not to judge someone when you view their actions as wrong. And even harder to understand why they believe they’re actions are right. There’s something very spiritual and inspiring about understanding different views on morality but been too big of an idea for me to wrap my head around. Thank you for putting this story out there. It’s given me more to think about.

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