You drive home through slow traffic riddled with SUVs.
And this is where the work comes in, Wallace said.
Do I really need to be pissed every time I shop and run on default thinking these situations are all about me and my hunger and fatigue and desire to get home? Do I really need to operate thinking everybody is in my way, and that the SUVs on the way home suck and are polluting the planet?
That is the easy, automatic way people often experience adult life as the center of the world.
Instead, Wallace suggests, is it not possible some of the people in SUVs have been in horrible accidents and find driving so traumatic they need to be in huge SUVs?
Perhaps the Hummer that cut you off was being driven by a father whose child is hurt, and he’s trying to get to the hospital?
He would in fact be in a more legitimate hurry than you, and you, in fact, are in his way.
Wallace said: “If you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her little child in the checkout line – maybe she’s not usually like this; maybe she has been up three straight nights holding the hand of her husband who’s dying of bone cancer.”
I admired Wallace for saying those things, not because I find it admirable, but because I believe a bit of hard work would go a long way in making this world a more compassionate place to live in.
People often say, “This is who I am.” But in fact, this is who you were socialized since birth to be, and if you want to, you can create a whole different self, one that perhaps yells less and provides the benefit of the doubt more.
Reach Editor Stephen Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.