The other week, when I was riding my bike to the South Bronx to go canoing in the polluted Bronx River with kids from Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (see here), an old man was feeding pigeons right in the middle of the bike path. I was running late and worried about time and I didn’t want to slow down and I figured the pigeons would move, and they did.
But not fast enough.
There was a terrible sound. It was the cry of either a pigeon’s pain or an old man’s dismay. I’m not sure which. Either way, a pigeon was dead, and the old man was devastated. I felt terrible.
Now, I haven’t written much about this, but I have a regular meditation practice. I find that meditation both makes my life easier to live and helps me to treat the world better (just as many other people have equally wonderful but different practices that do the same for them). The problem is that lately I haven’t been able to meditate as much as I’d like. As a result, my mind is less clear.
And I can’t help thinking that this is why I ran over the pigeon.
As I approached, at speed, the old man and his feathered friends, my thoughts did not go to what I could do to make sure the pigeons would be safe. Instead, faced with my worry about being late, I felt a flash of anger at the man’s feeding them in the middle of the bike path. Caught up in my irritation, I was not clear enough to realize I needed to slow down.
Recently, I wrote that “having no peace in myself means that there is no peace in the world around me.” I’ve also heard it said that:
A peaceful mind makes a peaceful man.
A peaceful man makes a peaceful family.
A peaceful family makes a peaceful village.
A peaceful village makes a peaceful country.
And a peaceful country makes a peaceful world.
Taken in reverse, if I’m not at ease, I can't pay attention. If I don’t pay attention, I could kill a pigeon...
I hate to think how it must have traumatized that old man who, having taking the trouble to feed the pigeons, instead ended up seeing one killed.
I’m so sorry that I killed that pigeon. I’m so sorry to have upset that old man. And I see, yet again, that if I want to hurt this world less, I must also do what I can to keep my mind peaceful, and to pay attention, and to not get distracted by petty concerns from what is really important.