Life Is A Highway….


To every one of us, the car we drive means something.   Some say it is the very root of who you are.  The debate whether women should have the right to drive should have us all wondering what driving really means.

With the possible exception of the television no other item of modern technology is so pervasive and so ubiqitous and is so inseparable from the identity of modern man as that of the automobile.

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And, we should before we discuss this issue, clear up any assumptions. It is not against the laws of Islam for a woman to drive, nor is it against the law in Saudi Arabia, period. Rather it is more of a social norm expected among the kingdom’s more conservative citizens.

From earliest times, people have felt a need to set themselves apart from others in the society in which they live. Often this competitive desire takes the shape of acquiring material items to symbolize one’s uniqueness.

There is a spiritual hunger in the world today – and it cannot be satisfied by better cars on longer credit terms.

These “status symbols” can come in many shapes and sizes. Common examples include houses, watches, jewelry, and clothing. Even purses have emerged as status symbols in today’s America. Modes of transportation, including the car, have long been another common status symbol. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the automobile has been one of the most powerful and pervasive American status symbols.

However, if we are willing to dig a little deeper we can see that our cars embody the metaphorical bubble we find ourselves in when individualism shapes our approach to driving.

We don’t realize how our choices affect others. On top of that, our cars provide us with a false sense of protection and anonymity. We often feel invincible and anonymous behind the wheel. We act like we forgot the other drivers are human beings, imagining the highway to be a road race between uninhabited cars.

Drivers are continually exposed to numerous stressors. Any incident can potentially turn into a catastrophe. There is hardly a warning. In addition to coping with dangers on the outside, on the inside motorists have to face the harshness of their own driving personality.

We are often too concerned about ourselves, our own destinations, our own schedules, our own choices to adjust the radio or reply to that text message, our own driving style, etc. In a society where individualism is prevalent, we can easily get stuck inside our own “bubbles.”

So, Car buffs take note — just like the movies predicted, the highways and byways of the future will likely include autonomous self-driving cars. Don’t believe me? Just look at the recent headlines… Lexus unveils a self-parking carGoogle’s self-driving car is licensed to drive in Nevada, etc. Love ’em or hate ’em, autonomous or robotic cars are coming.

But, to better understand the act of driving a car, one Stanford professor believes we should take the concept of the autonomous car one step further, by enabling the car to act more as a “driving coach” or “partner” to help us navigate the roads.

Stanford associate professor Chris Gerdes, who also acts as the director for the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) and the Dynamic Design Lab.

Gerdes and his team studied the brain waves of human drivers. The study confirmed that the brain does a tremendous job of handling the workload associated with driving, which prompted Gerdes conclusion that the optimal autonomous car tech will not necessarily replace humans, but should instead act as our coach. He believes that the optimal car will combine technology with human intuition and reflexes.

This vision might come as a bit of a surprise to the typical commuter who dreams about a commute where they can lay back and post Facebook updates, catch up with friends, and watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones during what would have been an awful and unhealthy commute.

But, driving is an important part of a person’s independent lifestyle and integration into the community. Unfortunately most of us take driving for granted.

Modern man has displayed an unstinting and passionate love affair with this product of his own invention and automobile transportation has become an unquestionable norm on every continent on the planet.

It was Nietzsche who observed that instead of seeing a metaphor as an embroidery of the facts, how a metaphor is rather a way of experiencing facts and how, by making them objects of experience, we give life or reality to them.

In waking life, cars are a means of transporting the human body. In dream life, cars symbolize the physical self as the carrier of the spiritual self. In the dream world, cars most often represent the physical body; which metaphorically speaking, also give us a means of freedom and expression. They represent the path we are traveling, and the ease or difficulty, we may be having during our travels.

When the dreamer isn’t driving, whoever is behind the wheel symbolizes who or what is behind the wheel in the waking world.

When you think about it, it is undoubtedly the case that the specific “wide awake” condition most widely shared among Americans is the act of driving.

“Unfortunately for car companies,” Jordan Weissmann noted at TheAtlantic.com a couple weeks back, “today’s teens and twenty-somethings don’t seem all that interested in buying a set of wheels. They’re not even particularly keen on driving.”

For generations of Americans, car ownership was an almost mandatory rite of passage—a symbol of freedom and independence. For more and more young people today, a car is a burden they no longer wish to carry.

Part of the reason for this shift is financial. But money doesn’t explain everything.

After analyzing hundreds of thousands of online conversations on everything from car blogs to Twitter and Facebook, the study found that teens and young people in their early twenties have increasingly negative perceptions “regarding the necessity of and desire to have cars.”

“There’s a cultural change taking place,” John Casesa, a veteran auto industry analyst told the New York Times in 2009.  “It’s partly because of the severe economic contraction. But younger consumers are viewing an automobile with a jaundiced eye. They don’t view the car the way their parents did, and they don’t have the money that their parents did.”

For generations of Americans, car ownership was an almost mandatory rite of passage—a symbol of freedom and independence. For more and more young people today, a car is a burden they no longer wish to carry.

The shift away from the car is part and parcel of a new way of life being embraced by young Americans, which places less emphasis on big cars or big houses as status symbols or life’s essentials.

In the book The Great Reset, it is called the New Normal. “Whether it’s because they don’t want them, can’t afford them, or see them as a symbol of waste and environmental abuse, more and more people are ditching their cars.

This whole culture separates modern life from all that came before. Unlike our ancestors, we have all climbed into automobiles and traveled roads from one place to another at speeds unimaginable by horse, and many of us have spent long hours in automobiles and indeed some of us have spent a good portion of our lives in them. They are an unavoidable: a fact of life.

Or are they?

Live And Learn. We All Do.

Thanks for reading. Please pass this on to someone who means something to you.

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About julia29

I'm a former Hall of Fame athlete, MBA, certified marketer that chose to stay home after I lost my job during the economic collapse. No doubt about it motherhood transforms all of us. Through the ancient cycle – of birth, maturation, and death we are catapulted and transformed from maiden to wise woman. I have a new outlook on Life and this blog is my attempt to share some observations and what I have learned along the way.
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2 Responses to Life Is A Highway….

  1. Pingback: Self Driving Cars: What Is The Ultimate Role of Low-Effort Mobility? « The Narcissistic Anthropologist

  2. Pingback: Self Driving Cars: What Is The Ultimate Impact of Low-Effort Mobility? « The Narcissistic Anthropologist

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