Inside joke: the title of this post is a reference to a book I have never actually read
I believe that God created the world, and that those who are chosen by him should obey him to the best of their abilities. Despite these aspirations, I'm a terrible sinner.
Nonetheless, at least I've got goals to aspire to, right? Sure, there are quite a few that most people don't agree with, especially the ones that prohibit actions that non-Christians (and even many self-proclaimed Christians) don't want to call evil.
Still, most people are on board with the second-greatest commandment - in fact, according to popular culture, that is in fact the main point of Jesus' coming to Earth!
37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Matthew 22:37-40 (NKJV)
(And for those paying attention, yes, I consider Penny Arcade to be an arbiter of popular culture.)
But if I'm not engaging in weekly gay-hunts, what IS my Christianity doing for me? Well, among the many other instructions for living life that God passed down to us, it seems that he really does care about Christians being an improvement for the quality-of-life of the people around us:
"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage." Matthew 5:13 (MSG)
Seriously, what is this post even about
All right, so Christians aren't supposed to be assholes. Most people sort of assume that already, even given plenty of implicit counter-arguments via the actions of Christians they know.
However, I've noticed a high correlation between driving a vehicle on the road and anger. While driving as a passenger, I've noticed that it is extremely common for a driver to express anger at
- The drivers sharing the road with him
- Shitty things that happen while driving (inconvenient red lights, poor road signs, etc) The former is by far the most common - the other vehicles on the road have a tendency to cut you off, slow you down, fail to announce where they are going, and generally just act like jerks.
Why does that burn people up so much?
If I accidentally bump my shopping cart into someone else at the grocery store, I'll quickly apologize - and the odds are that they'll say something to the effect of "ah, don't worry" or give an understanding smile, or at worst give a small huff and push on in annoyance.
If I turn left on a street and someone in oncoming traffic has to slow down to avoid me safely, I don't usually get a chance to hear their response. I've driven with enough people to imagine it, though - when you see someone doing something stupid or unnecessary in a way that inconveniences you, you generally feel a quick flash of anger toward them, and may say something to that effect at their expense.
Maybe it's because you just see vehicles - you're not dealing with humans, you're dealing with 4 wheels and a bumper sticker pushing [political party you hate]! Most people are polite enough to be diplomatic in the face of being inconvenienced by another human face, but if a hunk of metal cuts you off, you feel real rage at the theoretical person inside of it!
I'm glad I'm smarter than that!
Oh wait, no, I get mad exactly like that, all the time. Despite the Bible hammering in the fact that God expects you to be working on this self-control thing, I've raged at other drivers about 100% more than I should have. What am I supposed to do, turn every driving excursion into a painful turn-the-other-cheek exercise?
Well, that has kind of happened - but not until after I started adopting a proactive stance towards driving smart.
My life was changed (no, really!) when I read this site written by an engineer on the internet. I'd recommend reading it over, but here's the basic premise:
- Busy roads (especially big ones like highways) get inefficient to travel on quite a bit
- It turns out that if you drive in a certain way, you can make highway driving a lot more efficient... not for you, but for all the people behind you, too So how does a motivated engineer make the world better? It turns out, you can improve the quality-of-life of those around you by simply leaving a big gap between you and the vehicle in front of you.
I don't want to belabor all of the points he makes (seriously, you should read his site), but the general idea is
- If you never hit your brakes, the people behind you never have to hit their brakes, which lets everyone avoid the burst-forward-then-come-to-nearly-a-complete-stop situation that happens way too often on busy roads
- It's easy for people to merge in in front of you, which lets the lanes next to you avoid the someone-driving-really-slow-trying-to-merge-lanes situation
Is that really how you drive like a Christian?
So you're leaving a carefully-engineered gap between you and the traffic in front of you. Traffic behind you is demonstrably better because of it. What's the big deal?
Well, it turns out that this habit is not natural at all. At least not to me. When did I turn into a competitive driver looking to beat everyone else to my exit? I'm not sure. Maybe it was the day I got my drivers license. Maybe it was the day I was born with two working testicles. I haven't been able to pin it down.
They just... keep... merging!
People will merge in front of you. And man, no matter how zen I've been feeling about driving lately, my first instinct is STILL "gotta close the gap so the rest of the horde doesn't jump in in front of me!"
Calm yourself with these facts: each car who merges in front of you (potentially forcing you to let up on the accelerator in order to maintain good distance between you and the car ahead) adds... maybe 5 seconds to your trip. Sure, there's a slim chance that those 5 seconds could cause you to miss a light somewhere, but aren't those low odds worth improving the driving situation for all those around you and behind you?
Don't forget: the easier it is for people to merge into your lane, the smoother traffic will be for all of the people behind you!
Not dying is good, too
So yeah, this falls by the wayside whenever people are in a hurry, but it turns out that the more space you leave between you and the vehicle in front of you, the safer you are.
I'm struggling not to write a 500-word rant on this topic alone. Two seconds to respond to sudden developments ahead of you makes a massive difference compared to one second... and protip: you've been counting seconds too fast. Giving yourself a larger margin of error turns "accidents" into much safer near-misses.
But keeping your car and skull dent-free are just happy side effects that can happen when you decide to try to apply the biblical principle of making-life-better-for-others to driving.
Resist the power of John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory - start training yourself to be a blessing to the anonymized people on the road around you!