In Los Angeles, everywhere you look you see billboards. The number of billboards is only equaled by the number of people who complain about them. They are an eyesore, they are inappropriate, they are crass commercialism, they promote bad values. The list goes on. And I’ve no doubt all the complaints are legitimate.

But they just don’t bother me because I don’t notice them. How is that possible? Do I never leave my home? The truth is that I am too busy watching the road. When our children were new drivers we always told them “It’s not you we don’t trust (a bold-face lie – of course we didn’t trust them; they were teenagers and new drivers!), it’s the other guy (this part was true). And I still adhere to that warning myself.

LA drivers are notoriously bad and it’s often a white-knuckled drive through the city streets. Don’t even get me started on the freeways!

So I don’t notice the billboards. I’m too busy concentrating on driving.

And it occurred to me the other day that this might be a good metaphor for life in general. If we really concentrate on the job at hand, if we pour all our focus and energy into growing and giving and working on our relationship with the Almighty, it’s not just that we won’t be dragged down by the cravings of our body or thrown off course by too many distractions, we won’t even notice them! We’ll be too busy watching the road!

If I take the danger of wasting my life as seriously as the dangers of the streets of LA, I wouldn’t take my eye off the ball. I wouldn’t let down my guard. I know that looking away for just a brief second on the road can lead, God forbid, to disastrous consequences.

So too if I don’t pay attention to my life – if I don’t diligently scrutinize what I say, do and write! (Perhaps if I envision spiritual stop signs? Am I getting too carried away with the analogy?)

In Jewish understanding, everything in this world has a purpose – and a lesson. There has to be some reason (other than just to test my patience) for the terrible traffic in Los Angeles (besides the burgeoning population and the lack of urban planning) – and for the accompanying impatient, rude, distracted and just plain bad drivers (But do you want to know how I really feel?). Instead of railing against those people (you know who you are and I didn’t really deserve that obscene gesture you made at me the other day!), I plan to use future unpleasant experiences on the road to refocus myself on my life’s goals and the need to be vigilant.

Just be glad I’m not a traffic cop!