Cause and Effect

I can lie in my bed at 6 am and hear the traffic cop that stands in front of the Compañia blowing his whistle. In my city this is a special art. It is not the usual kind of where the cop lets first one flow of traffic go ahead, then the other. No, in my little colonial city, it’s as if the cars don’t run on fuel, and the only reason they move at all is because the traffic policeman is blowing his whistle. He never raises his hand to signal “Stop!” or “Now it’s your turn!” He simply blows his whistle, as if it were he alone—with his whistle—that made it all happen. He is the perfect example of cause and effect. It is even possible he has read Aristotle. How else would he know to use his whistle in this way? He has clearly chosen one of the philosopher’s four elements. Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

His choice was Air, which rises from where it is—to where it is going. And, in the process, because the idea is so strong, the traffic is also carried along, from where it is, to where it is going.

Of course, there could be another explanation. That would have to do with the concept of Authority, which is strong in Mexico. Which is also mixed with strong Belief. My cop commands with his whistle. The traffic, all together, obeys and keeps on moving. None of it has anything to do with maximizing traffic flow. It has everything to do with Authority. The cars would not know to move forward without his hectoring whistle. They are not whistled forward, rather they are commanded forward.

Of course, there is another possibility, and it deserves to be mentioned along with the others. It is the doctrine of Hope, which is strong in Mexico. It exists in a context of belief that thing will not get better. Hence, the usefulness of Hope—the brave persistence in thinking things will change for the better, even though you know they won’t.

I do not understand this pessimism, but there it is. As a result, Mexicans have developed a manner of cooperation that, in my limited experience, is rare in other countries. And that is the concept of uno a uno—one car from this flow of traffic, then one car from the other. I find that Mexicans take great pains to observe uno a uno—except when they don’t want to. In which case it is best to let the other car go first. But generally it works. (My Mexican friend apoplectically disputes my last short sentence.)

And so, I can lie in my bed and enjoy what I know is the perfect arrangement. The whistle blows, moving the cars forward—even though it is uno a uno, in spite of all the Air moving from where it is—in the traffic cop’s lungs—to where it is going—a few centimeters beyond the whistle’s whistle opening. Resignation, Hope, Authority and Cooperation all function at the same time. Keeping the world moving even as I lie snug in my bed, safe for the time being from almost all cause and effect. Unless, of course, my cat Lilus, a local Authority, arrives and has decided that I should meet my Duty and stroke her ears for the effect she demands.

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