I make really good egg salad. Which, of course, starts with hard-boiled eggs. When my egg salad comes to the table, it looks great, usually in its blue-and-white Chinese bowl, maybe some thin-sliced radishes adorning it, maybe nothing at all, just pure yellow and white.
My hard-boiled eggs in the kitchen, on the other hand, look horrible:
They’re battered and broken, gouged and clawed —- and this is one of the better looking ones! Usually by the time I’m finished, chunks of egg white mingle with shards of shell, and the resulting egg had BETTER go into egg salad, because it isn’t fit for anything else.
Until one morning, looking at three mangled eggs, the penny dropped at last. THIS is what violence is. Slamming the egg because it’s unresponsive to my wishes. Because the shell won’t fly off, it won’t peel in a hurry, it resists my will. I want it done NOW, so I’m impatient, I’m angry, I’m rough, I’m harsh. I, me, mine. What I want MUST be done NOW. Or else.
My violent impulses show themselves in other ways, often in a good cause! I flossed my teeth so roughly that the floss cut my finger and made my gums bleed. When I walked in the gym, I walked so vigorously I walked myself into a heel spur. I lifted weights so vehemently I strained my rotor cuff.
You want to laugh? You should see cereal boxes after I’ve opened them. My “rip and tear” method leaves a jagged opening out of which a spray of muesli showers and precipitates a tiny burst of annoyance — read, anger — every morning. Every morning! Anger at myself as well as at the cereal box. What I realized in that morning’s quick flash of enlightenment is that violence is violence. On any scale, in any dimension — ripping open a letter, slamming a door, gunning the car at a light (hey, they use that verb for a reason) — it’s all one. However cozy and miniature the scale, this is the same ego that drives criminals to value their own will above anyone or anything else’s existence. The distance from gunning the car to road rage to slapping a whiny child to blowing the head off an infuriating neighbor is shorter than we think.
So what is the antidote? Non-violence, what Mohandas Gandhi called ahimsa, which I realize I never understood before. Violence is in the human heart; therefore it can only be subdued in the human heart. And never by violence. It can be subdued by time, by taking time: when I am less hurried I am more able to think, to be master of myself rather than servant.
It can be subdued by patience. Not being impatient with myself, not getting angry with myself is a place to start. Choosing the way that is gentler, having compassion on myself AND on the eggs, those are good places to start. And then — Surprise! Surprise! Egg shells seem to peel themselves off, things fall into place as of their own volition once I allow them to. So the way of non-violence turns out also to be the way of efficiency.
So funny! Can I do this all the time? Of course not. But the more I do it, the better I get at it. I really have to laugh at myself: Gandhi-ji, I come to you late, but far better late than never. Namaste!