Life is a Roundabout

by Anna

If you have encountered one of the “magic roundabouts” you know just how confusing it can be. But having made it through alive and without damage to you or others, you also realise that things will be okay as long as you go with the flow.

Just what does it mean??

The other day I was waiting by a roundabout for a friend and since there was nothing else to do, my mind wandered and naturally focused on the most engaging option, the traffic going round the roundabout.

After a few unconscious minutes of staring at the cars whooshing by, my awareness was alerted by the realisation that this roundabout was a spitting image of the concept of life and the cosmos.

Not only did the central island represent the sun and the cars somewhat the planets circling around it, but also did the whole appearing and disappearing of cars resemble the coming and going of life, death, rebirth and also the theory of cause and effect – what comes around, goes around.

This idea was born when I recognized some drivers and seeing how different everyone behaved and interacted with each other. Some steered confident and self-assured through the roundabout only to be beeped at by someone who thought that it wasn’t going fast enough which in turn upset the anxious driver in the lane next to them who worried they made a mistake.

Regardless of individual’s driving styles and experiences, everyone left the circle of life at some point and took with it a different view based on their own experience. The only thing that remains the same, a constant observer, is the centre island, affected only by the seasons.

Representing a similar entity to what some would call a “God”, the centre island would also be our haven, a peaceful sanctuary, a point from where to see all and everything, an oracle that could tell you what happened and why. Although it was actually designed to block off the view for the opposing oncoming traffic so that they would focus on the traffic coming from one side only.

An even higher authority designed the layouts and decided that this was a good way to make traffic run smoothly. Of course not everyone obeys the rules. Most people don’t stay in their lane and cut through the middle, especially if there is no centre island. Recently I was doing my best staying in my lane when going straight over the roundabout, only to be cut off by someone entering the roundabout right in front of me. He probably thought I was about to leave the roundabout at the first exit because I was in the outside lane instead of cutting through the middle, like most probably do.

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

When I was about to visit New Zealand I was shown a picture of a roundabout layout by a friend which at first glance looked very terrifying, considering I was a German national and about to drive on the “wrong” side of the road. So before I went to pick up the car I had hired downtown Auckland, I walked the first few blocks that I was about to drive on, just to make sure I wouldn’t crash right away.

But soon I swerved gently through the traffic and actually had more trouble back on the roads in Germany adjusting to driving on the “normal” side of the  road, as I had been taught. Now that I have been living in the UK for over 7 years, I avoid driving in Germany because I find it too confusing and intimidating, despite it being the roads that I initially learned to drive on.

Roundabouts are a beautifully choreographed version of life and watching the traffic circle is almost like meditating. And although cars may or may not be the best example to compare life to, especially since they stink to heaven, excuse my choice of words, the epiphany that derives directly from simply watching is grandiose.

An interesting comparison from my point of view is that in Nepal I found that, stepping out to cross over a road, I myself became a centre island around which the traffic swerved frighteningly. But that is just the way it goes there. There are mini buses, taxis, motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, dogs, cows and people of all ages, genders and professions on the road, swerving and veering around each other in a beautiful harmonious chaos. The idea is to just go and everything will just swirl around you. Just don’t stop. A wonderfully exhilarating experience.

Roundabout in Kathmandu, Nepal

Roundabout in Kathmandu, Nepal

So we all have our own parcel to carry, or drive around. And what we do with life is up to us and us alone. If you ever wonder why life is the way it is, sit yourself next to a roundabout and watch. The answer will come to you 😉