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gift horse

Stepping out of the house I bumped into my neighbour walking his dog. Where are you off to, he asked. To the lawyer’s office, picking up the insurance cheque from last year’s traffic accident. How much are they giving you? Seven-thousand.* What, so little? 

Without knowing the details, his instant reaction was “so little,” not enough, should be more. I’d gone through similar acrobatics when I first received the call. How interesting, I thought, how the mind immediately jumps to “gimme more,” instead of being content with what’s given.

Greed, according to Buddhist teachings, is a root cause of suffering — one of the Three Poisons along with anger and ignorance. Zen Master Bon Soeng (Jeff Kitzes), guiding teacher of the Empty Gate Zen Center in Berkeley, says this:

Our true self may indeed always be shining and free but most of the time we experience painful difficulties in our lives. We are constantly dissatisfied with the ways things are. The Buddha said that we suffer because either we don’t have what we want or we are afraid of losing what we do have. Moment to moment we struggle to control and force the world to fit into the mold of our desires.

*of which 2,200 goes to repay out-of-pocket medical expenses. image:


8 responses »

  1. There’s another one that surprised me when I first heard it – it’s having what you don’t want, the subtle inclination to push away, is also a form of attachment or desire.

    And nice to have closure on the bicycle accident! much metta to you, Peter

  2. I find the whole “pain and suffering” payout aspect of the law pretty curious. People get these big cash settlements, and the media reports on that, and then others who get hurt hope for something similar. I’m not against helping people pay bills, and have money to live their lives. But I think the way we collectively focus on the money aspect just reinforces greed and leads to comments like the one your neighbor made.

    • i agree, nathan. first, that there should be a payment for “suffering” at all. second that large settlements breed expectations and cause insurance rates to go up. more suffering.

      ps: i’ve inserted the amount of the settlement in the post. it was $7000, of which 2200 were to reimburse medical expenses. I feel ok with the remaining money, half of which has gone into the jizo garden behind our zendo. i also had loss of income (hospice chaplain’s job) since i was a self-employed contractor.

  3. mmm. i wonder what the outcome might have been if the driver and the bicycle rider (you) could have spoken with each other about a settlement that reflected the concerns of both parties – allowing someone else to make the decision (the lawyers?) and then someone else to pay (icbc?) takes away the immediate and intimate act of saying i am sorry and apology accepted. curious.
    glad to read you are once more on your feet, though. keep the leash loose! xx

    • which outcome? would you risk leaving lawyer and insurance company out of the picture when there’s personal injury, loss of income, considerable pain over many months, and dozens of physio visits?

      • yes, have the lawyer and others involved. when i read your response to nathan, i wonder does the person who caused these injuries know of your pain, your mulitiple phyisio visits, lost income, change of lifestyle due to the accident, etc? were they involved in determining what the compensation should be? how much might they have been able to influence the amount of compensatation to you for the traffic accident? these thoughts come more from a restorative justice perspective p. i agree that people injured in accidents need compensation.

  4. i agree, nancy. the outcome would likely have been different. Immediately after the accident, as I was lying on the road, the driver knelt next to me, showed concern for my well-being and told me that she hadn’t seen me. I remember reaching up for her hand to reassure her. I was taken away by ambulance and never learned her name.

    The moment legalities entered the picture, our relationship became adversarial: me (my lawyer) against her (ICBC, the insurer). The lawyer’s staff seemed so steeped in that approach that they lectured me every time we spoke that “you know, they may find you at fault since you have no witness to prove your story.” I never felt that my interests were truly represented, that their sole aim was to get a $$ settlement without too much fuss … and to collect 33% thereof, plus expenses. They even got 1/3 of my out-of-pocket expenses, “since we negotiated them for you.”

    Reading your comments I realized that I could have gone to a lawyer with a mediation & reconciliation approach. Do they do insurance claims?

  5. Love the snow.
    Was a while before I saw it
    How much of the subtler do I miss in life!


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