|I calibrate my emotional expectation to a bracketed range around civility and kindness|
Hot Friday commute ride home, waves of infrared shimmering off the asphalt, spinning a smooth medium pace down the bike lane. Very low traffic. A gray luxury car approaches from behind, slows, and paces me. A little longer than chance, and with no turn nearby. I keep pedaling, but pivot my head to look to the left as he's matching my speed exactly. He looks at me, makes a funny face and a sort of Speed Racer, slight rocking motion with the steering wheel, as in, OH IT IS ON! IT IS SO ON. I smiled broadly and nodded affirmation. We're all just humans here on this street, on this Friday, with places to go and lives to live.
Our view of the other is not always so. Often, our IFF (identification friend or foe) is stuck on "foe". Like a stereotypical stone-faced subway rider, or permanently pissed off taxi driver, the stuck-on-foe calibrator sees enemies everywhere and danger all around. Have a look at what hypervigilance can lead to.
In contrast, I try to have a flexible, human-centered expectation of people, centered around optimal, civil, kind. I know there are foes out there. I'm vigilant, aware, alert, or try to be. But, I lead with the expectations bracketed around my flexible, optimal model of a human being, calibrated to the situation, and adjusted appropriately as more information comes in.
Sure, I smiled at the gray luxury car driver because his momentary goofiness struck me as funny in that situation. But beyond that, I also felt a momentary connection with him: he also calibrates for the human range, was willing and open to seeing a bicycle commuter spinning down a hot street on the way home as another human being, and made a small gesture that actually seems immensely complex and heavy with ideas the more I unpack it, but which I take to say primarily this: have a good ride, don't take it all to seriously. Well calibrated sir, well calibrated.