06 November 2006

Dynamic Tension at 90 kph

So out here in the Wild West Bank there's a culture of hitchhiking. A finger pointed down means local, a finger out means long distance. There's almost always someone on the road. Since I have a car, I usually stop. But something bothers me about it. Nothing in the culture; I think it's beautiful. It's not the danger of it either, not exactly. It's that as soon as I have a hitchhiker in my car, I'm tense. The best I can formulate is that I'm socially tense. I am keenly aware of the person in the car.

I picked up a young woman tonight (okay, so she was cute, that's mostly immaterial to the progression of our story.) I made a touch of small talk, and then the silence set in. I felt the tension, palpable. It has a similar flavor every time - nothing accidental, nothing really to do with who the other person is, clearly coming from me.

I decided to face it. I pulled out my psycho-spiritual tool bag. I acknowledged it, the tension, gave myself some sympathy, stepped outside it, then a new tool - sat in the tension in a light meditation of not knowing - active not knowing, real open ignorance, then consciousness of God's name, God's presence, in everything, in me, in the the young woman next to me, in this feeling, in this tension, all the time not knowing - not needing to know.

A realization - when someone gets in your car in the West Bank, for all of the assumed nonchalance of it, they are offering you a deep trust. It creates a bond, a deep bond, a trust of life. But really - they don't know you. You're just a guy driving a car. There's a connection and no connection, a bond and no bond, a trust and a strangeness. The conversations that happen in a car seldom get to the level of intimacy that has to be present for the person to step through the door and sit down. That's the tension.

I was so excited, I told the young woman.

Now that I'm writing about it, I think it might also be the weirdness in a lot of perfunctory relationships. The salespeople in stores, the guys handing out flyers in the street. They all have eyes, souls, and the flitting relationships are an ill-fitting mask for the deep currents that underlie all human contact. It's just more pronounced in a closed car in the Wild West Bank.

8 comments:

yitz.. said...

kudos for transcending social awkwardness of cute strangers in your car...
and don't tell me it doesn't make a difference. That's like saying it isn't any easier to be yourself on a date with someone in whom you have no interest. sorry it's the kotzker in me speaking :)

but to be fair you're right on the whole and in the case of tremping it does apply to any driver and any trempist..

Eitan said...

Haha! I was just thinking about this earlier today from the other side of the equation. I always feel a bit uncomfortable with the drivers who choose the silence route. I like to talk for a few minutes, 'where you from, where you going, etc.,' and then if it becomes a conversation that's great, and if it becomes silence I feel that we at least introduced ourselves. But the totally silent driver makes me really uncomfortable, though I can't really demand that they talk to me because they are doing me a favor to begin with, and if they want to be alone with their thoughts, that's their prerogative.

oishkapipik said...

Awsome story! I can totally relate to that feeling, I am a big fan of picking up hitchhikers! Being that my car breaks down so much I know that awsome feeling when someone actually stops to give you a ride.

So come on! I was dying to know what her response was. Did she think you were insane? or did she relate?

'laizer said...

Oishk! Good to see you.

At the time, her response wasn't as important as just being real and putting it out there. But, yes, she was responsive.

Stu said...

After Yitz gave some mussar, I'm gonna have to cut through that well-veneered exterior of yours and second the Oish in asking, "what did she SAY???"

As far as tremping, one thing you didn't explore is that the tremping atmosphere is its own unique weirdness, unrelated to the West Bank or general social tensions. There seems to be a code that demands, among other specific behaviors (no cell phone, no singing Meat Loaf out loud), that you are not supposed to speak during a tremp. I, as you might very well assume, sometimes try to violate that code, always when i am the driver and occasionally when I am the passenger.

I think i might have more to say on this, but, as you can see on The 'Stu, I'm not gonna

'laizer said...

What would you say, Stu?

Eliyahu Dror said...

Eliezer, I am inspired that you made this ride an opportunity to connect with the Name. I appreciate you sharing this in that I don't feel so strange or alone in knowing that I have also spent many a tremp ride first marveling at the tension and then marveling at the miracle of non-negotiated cooperation. When thiking to myself, I never used the word "trust" in the descriptions that I would use to describe the essential quality of the interaction in a tremp in the west bank (or any where else?), but in reading your blog it does ring true. However, I don't know if it is the driver and the passenger who are trusting one another so anonymously that I would say is the dominant trust relationship on the ride. Rather, for me, the awkwardness seems to bring out into awareness the intense trust that I must have in HaShem-first for getting into this car- then by extention for living each moment without knowing what will be. Thank you for bringing this thought to my attention. It has helped me come a little closer to grasping the illusive term "trust in HaShem", which puzzles me so often and so deeply.

'laizer said...

Eliyahu,

I'm glad I helped to add a piece to such a holy puzzle...