Human Wisdom, Hard Won

Monday Confessions:

I am an idiot at times, completely naive. Under normal circumstances, I am not manipulable, being highly suspicious of people I do not truly know, no matter their reputation, no matter how much I admire them. This is not paranoia — this is the nature of trust. Up front, even if I like or even love someone in any fashion, I will only feed out enough rope to see how far the person runs with it, what they’ll do. Because even the best of people are capable of unimaginable weirdness, yes, including me. Me, far from being “the best of people.”

Often enough, this general practice has saved me from finding that metaphorical rope tied around my neck and me swinging from a tree — even for what seems to the other the best of intentions or desires. Or tied up in someone’s basement in indentured servitude. Had they known me better, as my friends do, they would not have bothered: I do not follow commands well. While a good sheepdog, I am an independent one with no human master; I was granted the freedom to be my own and to make right use of that freedom.

In conversation, I may say things such as, “Yes.” This does not imply agreement at all times. Rather, it means I hear what you’re saying. I’m listening closely. I’m looking for patterns which may be beneficial or harmful. Please, speak more so I can better judge with whom and what I’m dealing. I’m feeding you the rope and assume you are as well.

And I am patient — which is a skill and an activity. It means I do not often make snap judgments or decisions; nor do I make decisions, if possible, that do not include escape clauses. Plan B, C, D, and so on. I plan for the worst possible outcomes — if they do not arise, I am thankful; if they do, I am thankful I planned ahead.

Knowing what I do about people, reality is, anyone could turn out to be dangerous in some sense or not truly working towards even a similar destiny or calling. Sometimes, discovering this amazes me and I see the idiocy in me for travelling along as far as I did with such a person. Because I desired things to be good and different,

But desires and feelings are not reality, not outer reality: At best, under examination, they tell me about myself, my beliefs, assumptions, values; but nothing about another person and nothing about whether my beliefs, assumptions, or values are good or truthful. No, that requires a great deal of meditation and self-doubt. And time. And that requires the skill of patience to overcome the default setting of impatience we are all born with.

So, though made an idiot, I do not remain one. My naiveté is subsequently diminished just a bit. And I am rarely surprised. Overtaken for a moment, maybe, but not surprised it happened.

One can trust a person to the degree of the worst thing they’ve done to you or habitually do. And that to the point trust may have to be completely withdrawn, regardless of cost; sometimes, it may be earned back; sometimes, the better part of human wisdom demands that it never be offered again.

Yes, that applies to me as well.

22 August 2016

Richard Van Ingram

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