"...I had travelled [sic] pretty widely in Canada and the United States, city and town and country, and I saw so many people every day, going about their lives, interacting with each other, and I realized that my overall opinion of them was...not high [ellipses Peart's]. So many men and women, young and old, looked and behaved in ways that seemed cruel..., petty, self-absorbed, self-righteous, and smug....I sometimes found myself sharing the dark view of humanity expressed by Roger Waters in Pink Floyd's Animals, in which he divided people into dogs, pigs, and sheep. While I would still have added another species, the few real humans who tried to look after that 'barnyard' and be nice to the other animals, I had to admit that a lot of people, maybe even most, did not behave very well toward each other." --Neil Peart, Ghost Rider
Keep in mind that Peart was in a bit of a funk (to say the least) when he wrote the passage I quoted above. I certainly have noticed that my view becomes ever more dismal when my mood turns bleak, and I rather doubt that this phenomenon is unique to me, so I have to cut him some slack for his pessimistic view of humanity, even though it is somewhat optimistic in comparison to Animals (which, I have to admit, was a great album).
But I had to stop and think when I read those words. Ghost Rider takes place eleven years before I started riding, so there is zero chance that he and I ever actually crossed paths while riding, but if he had...into which category would he have placed me? I've been feeling rather stressed lately, and my wife and daughter have recently begun asking, "Are you in a bad mood?" with disturbing -- and honestly, annoying -- frequency. Hmmm... I know I tend to get impatient with other drivers on the road. "Dang it -- the curvy parts of the road are why I took this route! Please stop slowing to a crawl at every bend and wriggle in the asphalt!" However, a friend and coworker once observed, "If you meet five [ahem..."buttheads"...] on the road, chances are you're one of them."
But what about the two guys in the Jetta Sunday while I was up in Hatcher's Pass? I could easily have just passed them and left them to their fate (a seized engine). After all, it wasn't my problem until I chose to involve myself with their misfortune. And, in traffic, I am far more likely to wait and allow someone into my lane than to blithely ignore them as I doggedly maintain my following distance with the vehicle ahead of me (even if I am equally likely to grouse about "rolling road blocks" in the fast lane at five under the speed limit and pacing the car next to them in the right hand lane). After all, actions speak louder than words...don't they?
I don't know. But "el Viajo Fantasmo" provided a good reminder that most other people -- those who are not a part of our individual "inner circles" -- only see us for a brief moment in time. In that instant, we have the ability to either bring light or darkness through our interactions with them. I certainly hope that Peart would see me as one of the humans, rather than as one of the pigs, dogs or sheep. Fortunately, I alone, have the ability, through the way I present myself to others, to influence what species of farm denizen they see in me.