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The reaction is mine to make


Actors have a saying that they are not acting, but reacting. If art imitates reality, and it does, than our reaction to any event is as important than the event itself. Several months ago I said in this column  that, “it is not the action but our reaction that is important.”

Since then I’ve had several discussions with people about that statement. Let me see if I can explain it in a simple, everyday situation.

Let’s say I am driving on Highway 95, following a car at a safe distance, both of us abiding by the laws of the road in this state. I see in my mirror a vehicle that is getting bigger by the nano-second, traveling slightly less than the speed of sound. I look ahead and see this is not a good place to pass two cars. Even though I am driving at a reasonable distance behind the car ahead, there still is not room to put another car between us safely.

That is the action. I have no control over any of the cars but mine. I didn’t set this situation up but I will need to react to it. It cannot be ignored if all three of us are to avoid an unpleasant incident. My reaction, the only one I can do anything about, is now very important.

What can I do? I can talk to the driver who is creating this problem for me with the only sign language I know, but I doubt if it will help anything. I can hold my position behind the car ahead of me and add to an already dangerous situation. Or I can slow a little and, if there is room, move to the right a little and allow the speeder around while I make sure I’m prepared for any more of his shenanigans.

Those are the possible reactions to this and each has its own consequence.

In fact, at this point what the car behind me is doing isn’t as important as how I react to it. My reaction may save my life.

I have the law on my side, yet at this very moment, protecting my rights to not have to slow for him is not as important as letting him by.  Along with my letting go of it all.

There is another reaction—the letting go part. It can be very difficult.

Do I chose anger, and try to get even? Do I let this incident ruin my day, and anybody else’s I may come in contact with? Or do I let it all pass with the speeding car and leave my life altogether?

There are still more reactions to consider. I can complain that cars like that should not be sold, or at least not allowed on the road. Or I can become part of some campaign for better education and safer roads and cars.

In this story I’ve mentioned a lot of choices and each of them are mine to make. As I react to this action I need to look for what is the highest and best good for everyone… and for me.

Anger accomplishes nothing and is wasted energy. (I wish I could live that one better.) Taking someone else’s rights (you can’t drive that car) is just plain wrong.

I’m exploring the concept in this very simple story this week after the elections of our nation. It doesn’t matter how pleased or displeased I am, they are over. I need to get on with my life.

The elections are history; to change the results now would create civil strife of the largest magnitude. What reaction to the election will serve the highest good is now the question.  Better yet, what reaction of mine will serve my highest good?

Each of us now need to explore what went right and what went wrong.

At this point I see some things that are right that I would like to see continue. The biggest of these is the large number of people who voted. We need to keep working for this cause,. making sure every citizen who has the right to vote can, and encouraging them to exercise that right.

One thing that comes to mind already that went wrong is not having a paper trail for every vote cast.

Every accountant will say that when dealing with numbers, each one needs to be documented. Without a paper trail there can be a perception that every vote wasn’t counted correctly.

Sure, there is a greater cost, but if we feel we can afford to spread democracy around the world then don’t we need to make sure we are exercising the purest form of democracy here?

The important thing is that as we look at these and other issues regarding this election we need to react to them not in a knee-jerk way, but in a thoughtful and very conscious way.

It is not the action, now, but our reaction that will matter in the future.


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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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