Feeling a bit vulnerable today and when I feel vulnerable I practice my metta meditation skills. That is I say the phrases in my head: “May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I live with ease” and when I’m walking round I focus on people and think to myself “may you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you live with ease.” Doing the phrases while focusing on other people has definitely helped me feel like I belong more to this whole human race. I feel more connected to the people around me, they aren’t scary beings out to get me or hurt me. They’re just people, like me.
This week is a challenge for me. As I’m writing this I can hear the roar of bikes, with the occasional helicopter going to pick up some poor sod who’s mangled himself. It’s the TT races here in the island, my least favourite couple of weeks in the year. I don’t drive a car, I definitely don’t ride a motorbike. I have no need to, I can walk everywhere I need to go. To be honest I hate being in cars, so I avoid it when I can. This marks me out as very different in the world we live in. The thing is I just can’t understand why everyone else does rely on cars so much. I worry about not being able to understand this and the more I worry the bigger the gap becomes.
So some history of the TT: men on bikes racing at ridiculously high speeds on main roads that are closed to traffic at the whim of the race organisers. According to Wikipedia, there has been 231 deaths between the years 1997 and 2009. Every year there’s a handful of deaths, not always people racing. Spectators have died and sometimes volunteer marshalls of the races. You grow up in the island thinking this is normal. The common refrain is “they knew what they were getting themselves in for”
Deaths apart, many thousands of bikers come over and the effect in the island seems to be of a heightened aggression and increasingly dangerous driving. Even among the people living here! The prom (which I enjoy walking on) is turned into a fair and the famous beer tent is erected. “The island comes alive!” is another line people cry. Presumably ‘alive’ means drinking until you’re paralytic and then shagging some biker in a back alley. Fantastic!
And then there’s the disruption to people’s lives. I mentioned that the roads are closed, these are not back roads or a track, this is the roads people use to get around. If it rains and the races can’t go on, well they just close the roads for longer! For a lot of people, not living in Douglas this is the only impact the races has on them, the traffic jams. It is disheartening to think that people will grumble more about being stuck in traffic than they will about people dying unnecessarily.
Now, can you understand my problem here? How can I go about and look into the eyes of these men (and they are overwhelmingly men) who come over to the festival turning my home into an aggressive, drunken perma-1am-on-a-Friday-night place and wish them happiness and ease? How can I wish that people who are coming over to my home to deliberately drive fast thus endangering themselves and those around them are safe, are healthy?
I will continue to practice the metta phrases because I know we can’t pick and choose who we are and aren’t compassionate towards. It is hard, forever being on the outside, of the minority, unvocalised opinion. Give me strength, metta, I need it!