Just had a week away on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. A spectacular place, made up of vast mountain plains, pine forests, tumbling waterfalls and the sound of tinkling streams, almost everywhere. Nature ‘appears’ alive and well on Mull, with golden eagles, deer, seals and otters, as well as other creatures.
Apart from the awesomeness of nature, the people that live, and holiday, on Mull were also noteworthy. Most of Mull is covered by single lane roads, roads that twist and turn, ascend and descend, and it takes some mindful, sensitive driving to traverse these safely. At points on the road, there are passing places, enlargements in the road where cars can pass each other. As the days of driving on these roads passed I became more and more aware of the level of goodwill that existed in these passing places. Nine out of ten drivers would stop to let me pass, and almost everyone expressed thanks in a wave.
I began to feel a real sense of warmth, and even happiness at being in a place ‘driven’ by this kind of generosity and care. I could relax here, let down my guard, be less defended. I wondered how this everyday experience of driving and ‘giving way’ might inform the way that Mull’s residents experience each other as community in their wider lives. Unfortunately I have not been on Mull long enough to know, but if seven days of travelling on Mull’s roads could have this impact on me, what might it be like over the longer term.
Giving way, on roads, in queues, on the underground (a seat), in relationships – with self, others and life (conflict, unwanted change, unfulfilled expectations). As I write this I am aware that giving way is a kind of letting go, letting go of the dominance of ‘my way’ and ‘me first’. It embodies attitudes of kindness, thoughtfulness, consideration of others, of empathy – putting oneself in the others shoes and being willing to slow down. It offers us safety, and safety to others too. It creates an environment where we each take care of the other, and by doing so, take care of ourselves. What might our world be like if it were orientated by values like this? Our relationship with ourselves, our families and our communities near at hand and far away?
I leave you with a quote that is attributed to Plato, it feels relevant:
‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle’