What drives us to claim that someone must “earn” our trust?

Maybe we look at children, and their innocent acceptance of our magical disappearances and reappearances—silly children who haven’t figured out the mystery of object permanence. Or we recall the way dogs will chase the imaginary sticks we have thrown when we hold the actual sticks behind our backs. Dogs are so stupid. Or we remember how Uncle Max had two mistresses—at the same time!—breaking Aunt Sylvia’s heart; how did she not see the signs? Or, or, or…

How many thousand lessons does life provide, proving that if we let our guards down for even a moment, that life will either make fools of us, or render us hapless victims? And earned trust? Surely there are just as many examples when our earned trust was upended like a cheap pine table in an earthquake. We proceed like penurious bankers, giving out loans at interests rates that would humble Rajahs, and still, we are repaid by grief and betrayal. What hope can we have?

How much armor is needed—lead, steel, or titanium—to get us from our bedside to the fringe of the world? Who cares that accident statistics show that SUVs—great exoskeletons that we wear like Gregor Samsa wore his carapace—are more likely to be in a crash than the nimble little roadsters that weave in and out of danger? More armor! More protection!

For what? Wrapped inside a traveling sarcophagus we are pre-entombed—already arrayed for the burial. And trust is just another layer—a shroud that hides a face.

Why not just trust? Why not embrace foolishness, stupidity, Aunt Sylvia’s blissful ignorance (until it finally becomes too much)? How many moments of easy grace do we pass by in the name of incredulity? Protecting our fragile hearts and minds (our bodies are so rarely at risk, and so much easier to protect)? From what?

What price do we pay for the blanket of distrust we wear over our shoulders—leaded, like the dentist’s leaded sheet, to prevent the harmful rays from reaching within? How many more might we more easily trust? What fruits might we more readily sample? What lessons of hope and joy might just as easily fall into our outstretched hands, if we only stretched them out?

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Brian Brennan

I am a writer and a teacher. I have lived in Philadelphia, Binghamton, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Norfolk, and Northern Virginia. I have sailed on the ocean and flown over the North Pole. I write fiction, poetry, and nonfiction.

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