A man walks out to the parking lot to drive home. He sees his car door ajar, then as he gets closer, he notices a woman in the driver’s seat. He approaches her and relates that this is his car she is sitting in. She insists that, no, in fact, it is her car and she is having trouble getting it started. Why, she has even called her husband and a garage that is sending a tow truck.
The woman notes that the car is hers because of its color, make, and model, and it is very clean—all facts about her car. The man asks her if she knows her license number; she reports her car has Pennsylvania plates. The owner notes that there are New Jersey plates on his car—the car in which she has taken up residence.
Finally, the woman reaches the moment of truth that this green Honda is in fact not hers and the man kindly escorts her through the parking lot to her car which starts just fine—no tow truck necessary.
Not fiction, this is in fact an incident that occurred to a colleague. He—and I agree—thought it to be a metaphor for how we all can get caught in a particular mind set in which we see no other reality but the one we have construed. We get stuck in a way of thinking, or belief system, because we cannot expand beyond the narrow confines of our own dubious construction. We cannot take in another’s truth, another’s point of view, another reality. No walking a mile in another’s moccasins here—and no empathy when we cannot expand our reality.
A dear friend tells me her sister has suddenly gone blind. Perhaps because she expected to die and was grateful to be alive, perhaps because she is exceedingly resilient, her sister replies to the diagnosis, “I’ve always wanted a dog!” Maybe this person I do not know will have a learning curve slump, struggling with how to cope with the sudden onset of blindness; nevertheless, her initial response may indicate that this woman has the capacity to expand into a new reality. Her assumptive world has been torn asunder and she finds footing in a strange land.
It’s a delicate balance we straddle. While we need to find our ground in the reality we create, we also need to be open to realities beyond our narrow ken: How life can change in an instant; how we can perhaps begin to glimpse that our absolutes are challenged.
I recall, as a child, observing my own nuclear family, its unwritten rules, its unspoken world view. I compared this perspective with the mores of my cousins’ families. Yes, similar values; yet so vastly different. Then expanding the circle to classmates, I noticed even more change of perspective. And on and on. The more cultures we encounter, the more people we meet from all walks of life, the more we can expand our world view.
Perhaps, then when we come to that car in the parking lot, we can allow ourselves to behold that there are more realities than the ones we hold as absolute.