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I Contain Multitudes – Or the Laws of Physics

November 9, 2017

Story time!

TL;DR – Saw a car accident that made me question my religion, nationality, race, and gender.

Physics tells us that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. For example, the grey Honda cannot occupy the same space as the blue shuttle van. The grey Honda cannot occupy the same space as the white Toyota or the white Chevy. The blue shuttle van cannot occupy the same space as the white pick-up truck.

While in the eyes of science, this does not constitute sufficient proof that no two solid objects can ever successfully occupy the same space at the same time – in fact, what we know about atoms and subatomic particle physics, mainly that atoms are made up mostly of empty space between their particles, much like our solar system is mostly empty space between planets separated by vast distances yet bound by strong but invisible forces, leads us to believe that somewhere, at sometime, two objects probably will successfully occupy the same time and place, given that the universe is as near to infinite as we can conceive and objects have infinite opportunities to try and occupy the same place at the same time – however, it is sufficient to convince me (not a physicist) that I saw a demonstration of a law of the universe at 2:00 p.m. on the 210 freeway at the San Dimas exit. But I digress, what is what my mind does when it’s hopped up on adrenaline and has no other immediate outlet for that energy.

I was driving to deliver a guest lecture in a class on interfaith spiritual care from the Buddhist perspective when I approached a slow down on the freeway, not unusual in this area. I was almost fully stopped when I heard a loud bang directly to my left, in the carpool lane. Then the grey Honda hurtled past me within inches of my tiny red Smart car and hit the white Toyota directly in front of me before continuing sideways to hit the white Chevy next to it. The blue shuttle van hurtled by some ways further down the carpool lane to my left, impacting with a white pickup truck and possibly another car.

The words that immediately came out of my mouth were “Jesus Christ!” They also came out in a distinctly Australian accent. In case you don’t know what that sounds like, I have found this helpful clip from the movie Crocodile Dundee (which I admit to watching repeatedly in my youth):

The very next thought that went through my head is “What dafuq did I just see?” and it was in Jamie Foxx’s voice. This may be an adaptation from Baby Driver, though I don’t know if he says precisely that line, but this is close:

So apparently, when startled, I am no longer a white, Buddhist, American woman. I am a black, Christian, Australian man. Who knew?

I sat there in my car for a few minutes. Am I hurt? No, I’m not hurt. Is my car damaged? No, my car is not damaged. Can I do anything to help these people right now? No, I don’t think so. I’m not an EMT and they all seem to be mobile and have people helping them. Should I stay to give a witness statement to the cops? I have no idea what caused the accident or who was to blame. I just saw the aftermath – up close and personal. Traffic was slowly moving all around me, so I put my blinker on and rejoined it.

I drove to my exit with one hand on my heart. I left the freeway for surface streets. I reached the stoplight before my turn onto the college campus before I realized what I had said and thought and started laughing.

I guess this ‘self’ we treat as real, whole, and independent, really is just a fabricated amalgamation of causes and conditions collected throughout our lives. I carry within me and incorporate into my personality small details from the places I have been and things I have experienced, including pop culture. As I continue to live and experience, new things will mix with old. Thus the ‘self’ I consider ‘me’ is ever changing, never permanent.

It can also end in an instant. I’d like to say that this led to some profound reevaluation of my priorities and a reinvigorated practice life…but it didn’t. I went about my day as planned, though I apologized to the class I was visiting if my thoughts were somewhat disjointed and speedy. Side effect of the adrenaline high that lasted several hours. I went about the next day as planned.

It is now two days later and I tend to look at the entire incident with a certain amount of inappropriate humor. Several people had a very, very bad day on the 210 freeway. It is mere chance that I was not one of them. In contrast, I only had a mildly odd day and a clear reaffirmation in my belief in the laws of physics and the truth of non-self.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Eric Blaydes permalink
    November 9, 2017 5:54 pm

    “I am a black, Christian, Australian man. Who knew?” Buahahahahaha! Glad you’re okay, wow, #californialife right? P.S. I live east of San Francisco for the past two years. If you’re ever around the Manteca area, look me up. :-)

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