From Here to Oblivion

Man wearing blinders

I have decided that in my next life, I want to come back as an oblivious person.

I am not currently oblivious, nor do I think I have ever been.  I have always been blessed (or cursed) with a sense of what is going on around me at any given time.  And even if that sense is not necessarily keen, it is adequate and keeps me from becoming a menace to those around me.

I have lived a long time and I have had many opportunities to observe oblivious people and I have come to realize that theirs is a charmed existence.  I used to think I was superior to oblivious people.  After all, I was cognizant of things going on around me and they weren’t.  Surely my consciousness of people, actions, and things around me gave me an evolutionary advantage over someone who was conscious of none of those things.

But now I’m not so sure.

I very often see people stop their shopping carts in the middle of the aisle to ponder a selection of beans or cereals or pita chips.  They not only park their carts in the middle of the aisle, the angle it or put it perpendicular to the aisle so that there is no way to get around them.  They are completely oblivious to the fact that no one can get around them.  In contrast, the other people, who are conscious of the situation, begin to get quite perturbed.  Their blood pressure rises.  Steam begins to come out of their ears.  But the oblivious person is … well … oblivious.  His (or her) blood pressure is just fine.  They are calm.  All is well in their world.

Today I was in the parking lot of a very busy shopping center and saw a lady stop her car in the middle of a busy aisle so that she could do something that required all of her attention.  I’m assuming she was receiving or sending a text.  Or looking at dog pictures on Pinterest.   Or swiping past potential suitors in Tinder.  But she just stopped her car.  Cars backed up behind her and in front of her (it was a bi-directional aisle).   She sat there for a good 4 or 5 minutes texting or Facebooking or whatever the heck it was that was so important that it required stopping in the middle of a very busy parking lot aisle.  Everyone around her was having strokes, aneurysms, and various seizures.  She, on the other hand, was quite calm and serene.  She did not even seem to hear the car horns blaring around her.

I very frequently see a group of people meet in a busy intersection in a store or at work and they will just stand there, conversing with each other, laughing, having some sort of reunion or another.  Meanwhile, they are blocking traffic from four different directions.  However, they seem completely unaware of the fact that they are blocking a busy intersection with their impromptu high school reunion, even while everyone around them is beet red and clutching their hearts, moments from expiring completely.

I have observed drivers on the busiest freeways in Dallas going a good 40 miles per hour below the prevailing speed on the freeway.  Other drivers are swerving around them and nearly having accidents avoiding this sudden road hazard that appears before them.  Horns are blaring.  Hand signals are exchanged.  Vital signs slip into the red zone.  But the turtle-like driver is calm, cool, and happy as a clam.

I have seen parents in a book store completely oblivious to the fact that their kids are running around unsupervised and being a danger to themselves and everyone around them.  The insensible parent calmly sips their grande Chai Crème Frappuccino and flips serenely through a magazine they have no intention of buying while their little darlings are climbing bookshelves, screaming at the tops of their lungs, and scattering books hither and yon.  The rest of the patrons in the bookstore (and the employees) are doing a slow burn and feeling their left arm go numb.  The parent, on the other hand, could not possibly be happier.

So which is better?  To be oblivious to everything and everyone around you and know true peace and serenity and contentment?  Or to have a high degree of mindfulness, attentiveness, and situational awareness and thus be in a state of constant stress, tension, and anxiety?

I don’t know about you, but on my next go round, I’m requesting that I be oblivious.

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