(written February 2003)
My mind flashed back and I could see the grass by the verge of the
road, the trees, and as we approached the road, not at a corner, not at a zebra crossing or pelican crossing, but in the middle of the street, and all the traffic in the street stopped to let us cross. I was awe-struck. This was Alberta, Canada in 1987.
We weren’t at a traffic light, we weren’t at a marked, prepared or offical crossing point – we hadn’t even entered the street. But our intention to cross was understood and the traffic made immediate actions to facilitate our crossing. It was 1987 and it made a real impact on me. I can still recall it in all its wonder and awesomeness.
But now I stood at an offical, proper, designated crossing point in Izmir (ancient Smyrna). To my left there was a constant stream of cars, trucks, vans and buses pouring down the three lane road in five columns, twisting, weaving, manoeuvring as they plunged forth down the road and on to their destinations. This, clearly, was not Alberta, in 1987. Here, it was evident, different rules apply.
Mustering all our deep rooted skills as a hunter/gatherer T. and I joined the throng of other would-be road crossers to engage in the art of ‘crossing to the other side’. All the drivers know that we know that it is our sole responsibility not to step in front of them – not to impede their forward progress – not to hinder them in their pursuit of the other end of the road. If you step in front of a vehicle they ‘know’ you will step out of the way before they pass that point in the road. It is not their concern. So we, the throng, the gaggle, the gathering of young, old, male, female, healthy and infirm, are posed on the edge of the flowing maelstrom of traffic waiting, watching, judging the right moment to make the plunge, to enter the fray to judge and to act.
You make the first step – not faltering, not hesitant – you know where you are going. You cross in front of one – pause – he careens past behind whilst another flies before, another quick step and we are half way to the island of tranquility in the midst of the raging torrent of traffic. One more and another and we have arrived – as has the herd. We carry on, a job half done, but the other half is simple in comparison. You feel a sense of accomplishment, of joy, of triumph.
Different rules apply – different responsibilities, no arguments.
In a new culture, things will be different, but, underlying everything, somethings never change – character, truth, intergrity, honesty. How you cross a street may be subject to change, but who we are must needs be settled on a firmer foundation to withstand the foaming waves of turbulence that would seek to mould us into something we would not be.
Modifying, changing one aspect – like crossing a street – affords us life and peace, but the other, allowing a culture to change who we are and by what lights we live, this endangers what our life is about.