Learning by metaphor

You know you are meant to learn a lesson when it’s offered to you in metaphor three times in one week.

Last week, I wrote an ode to Yom Kippur. One of my friends commented by referencing a Dvar Torah given by a friend and neighbor during the holiday:

She used driving a car as symbolic of seeing into the future (forward) and the past (rear view mirror) at the same time. She said it may be the only time in life that we actually have that unique opportunity to do so. She spoke about being on auto-pilot and how lucky that we have 25 hours of Yom Kippur to actually stop.

Being a little obsessed with time travel, and still hopeful that one day I will be able to travel both into the future and into the past, I really appreciated this metaphor.

Driving a car is a little bit like time travel — or at least a little bit like the megalith “Guardian of Forever” in The City on the Edge of Forever (Star Trek, episode 1×28).

star trek
Courtesy Wikipedia

There are times, if you pay careful attention, when you may be privilege to what’s behind and what’s ahead, even if there is little to do to change it.

Yesterday, as I drove home from work, I passed by a 6 kilometer bumper-to-bumper back up. As I realized how long the traffic jam was, I started to feel more and more compassion for the drivers sitting in the jam on their way home from work. They had no idea how long the backup was — but I did.

Then, as I slowly made my way around the curvy bend just after the village of D’meida, but before Kfar Manda, I approached the end of the line. There, as cars slowed to a stop, I felt compelled to open up my window and shout:

“Turn around! You’re about to hit a major traffic jam! There’s no way out.”

I felt overwhelmed with sympathy for these people who had no idea what was about to happen to them.

Only minutes before, they were grooving to tunes, catching up on the news, joyfully anticipating a reunion with their kids at the end of a long day.

And now…


I didn’t call out my window, though.

Even if I did, I asked myself, would they have heard me? Understood me?

Would they have listened?

Would they have done anything in response?

Many wouldn’t have understood. And even those who did, would use their own evaluation of the situation and past experience to decide what to do.

I chuckled to myself.

It’s a bit like parenting.

You think you know more than your kids. You’ve been there; done that, after all.

You worry. You nudge. You shout:

“Don’t do that!”

“Be careful!”

“You’re making the wrong choice!”

Sometimes they listen. Sometimes (rarely) they value your input.

But usually they don’t.

Like my daughter, for instance — who slammed the front door on her finger last Friday.

She closed the door with her hand in between the jam, despite 2 1/2 years of warnings from both me and my husband to please not.

Evidence that you can offer advice, insight, admonition,

But people — not just kids, but grown ups, too — usually need to learn from experience.

They hardly ever make decisions based solely on the advice of others.

Even if those others are knowledgeable.

Even if they can see into the future or the past.

* * *

Today, on my own drive into work, I found myself stuck in a traffic jam; almost in exactly the same spot as the jam yesterday.

Traffic sat still for a half hour. The minutes ticked away.

A few times I contemplated what to do.

Stay in the car and wait this out?

Try to make it 10 car lengths ahead and turn left to try to go around?

Do a k-turn and return home?

I chuckled. Clearly, there was a lesson to be learned with this whole car metaphor.

I checked Waze.

There was a major accident ahead. It had been there for over an hour.

I thought back to the day before, and then made a k-turn to return home.

I drove slowly, a little bit tripped out by the accident I never saw and the whole car metaphor.

I meditatively contemplated the take-away.

Is the only source of knowledge experience, as Albert Einstein once said?

Are we doomed to ignore others, until we experience things for ourselves?


Or at least until we figure out time travel.

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