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It's Nelly's World

Up in the Air

alec vanderboom

Where does it come from, trust, and what is its use? Does it exist only to give you courage to do things you shouldn't? Such as love?

I've been thinking lately about this amorphous thing. It is not made of substance, yet it is the very foundation on which you build things of great substance. Your life and all it contains, for instance. Where does it come from--childish hope?

I refer not to love which is given: that is always its own reward. And I refer not to the love we offer so joyously to our children, to our friends, and to our dogs, who alone may be counted on to never change suddenly in midstream: I just decided I don't love you anymore, so I'll see you later. The trust in a dog's return of affection is never misplaced. If anyone is looking for the primary reason we choose as companions domestic canines by the million, there you go.

(I was recently sent--by a fellow dog person, of course--the Mad TV skit in which a man stands on a ledge outside his apartment, ready to end it all, while his wife tries to talk him down. She gets sidetracked by her pets, though, a dozen ankle-biters who get cooed at, wovey-dovey, while he gets readier by the minute to jump. She finally thinks to ask him why--it's because she loves the dogs more than him, of course.)

One cannot always know what children are thinking.
Children are hard to understand, especially when
careful training has accustomed them to obedience
and experience has made them cautious in conversation
with their teachers. Will you not draw from that
fine maxim that one should not scold children too
much but should make them trustful, so that they
will not conceal their stupidities from us?

These are the words, written in 1776, of Catherine the Great of Russia. They illustrate, to devious ends, how trust leads to openness, and openness to the fullest experience of relationships in which nothing needs to be hidden. In this utopia made of trust, the energy one would otherwise devote to manipulation need never be expended. It may be spent in happier ways.

Recently I had cause to write in a notebook: "Insecure people are inherently untrustworthy." And so it is that trust is the chicken-or-egg question rolling endlessly from one side of a life to the other. Being unable to trust one's primary caretaker makes one insecure; then one turns around and later proves himself unworthy of trust.

We have all heard of people who exemplify the sad craziness of falling in love with those who are transparent liars and cheats, but who nonetheless elicit trust from their victim. "He told me he was never going to [fill in the blank] again!" "And you believed him?" "Yes! He promised!"

Oy.

But how can any of us really know? We go on our merry way, trusting in all sorts of things--the electric light that will go on when we flip the switch, the sun that rises every morning (so far!), the honesty of our elected officials, the promise and the vow and the kiss. Is it all a big craps shoot? Maybe someday we will be able to determine the logarithm of trust, that which will render heartbreak a thing of the past--the princess telephone of emotion.