The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Sunday, 16 March 2014
Spring is crossing the land towards us at, I believe it's said, 2mph.
This afternoon, in a blue day, after sowing the rest of my broad beans and cleaning the recycled glass panes topping the big cold frame TM has made us (now housing germinating seeds of soya beans, French beans, borlotti, cavallo nero, kale, leeks and 3 kinds of purple sprouting broccoli), with the temperature in the 20s, I lay in the hammock – yes, hammock! – in sun, near the apple trees, and looked up at the buzzard cruising in the thermals, at the contrail of a jet above it, and thought about trust.
Initially I was just thinking about how we trust the earth to keep spinning at its regular speed of whatever-it-is, trust gravity to stop us flying into space, and trust aerodynamics, the internal combustion engine, engineers and pilots to keep us up in the air in those little metal boxes. How I trust the apple trees to keep budding, how I trust that the newly-planted seeds will shoot, and leaf, and deliver fruit, how I trust the dog, lying on the grass nearby, never to bite me, how I trust that today I won't die.
Then my mind turned on a conversation I had with my daughter yesterday, about the components of trust. She said, insightfully, I think, that almost without exception we – she and I – have surrounded ourselves with people whom we can trust completely, and take that so for granted we don't think about it, or need to think about it. Until or unless someone betrays us.
I have been naïve in this way, at times. Most of my life I've trusted the people I've met. I am myself, on the whole, reasonably trustworthy, I think; and I'd much rather go through life that way, trusting, than the other.
I've also found that when you trust people they do generally turn out to be trustworthy, which reinforces both your wish and your ability to trust.
A simple example of this occurred weekly, in the days when I was a shoemaker. I worked for myself, and hand-made, to measure, shoes that would go out all over the world (I had a three-month waiting list). Customers would pay me a small deposit and pay the balance, plus postage, on receipt. Of the hundreds, tens of hundreds, maybe, of shoes I sent out on trust, I was only ever let down twice in 14 years. That ain't bad.
However, in my personal life I've been burned a few times, usually when my instinct has said one thing and I've ignored it and gone the other way. Last year this was brought home sharply to me when I was betrayed by a friend. It shocked and hurt me deeply. Perhaps now I'm not quite as blindly trusting; and I also no longer ignore my instinct.
One of my own weaknesses is that I can sometimes leave things for too long before raising them, because of my intense dislike of hurting people or creating disharmony – all very well, but there's a cowardice in there at times, too, that can make a situation worse when it does blow up. (In that way, I could no doubt improve my own trustworthiness by being more willing to speak out and rock boats when it's needed earlier rather than later.)
So, lying there in my hammock, I was thinking about my conversation with my daughter, and musing on what we mean by trust, and what that means in relation to people we entrust our friendship to. What qualities does the word 'trust' connote?
I guess the most obvious quality is that of integrity: our knowing that someone will aim to act honourably.
I guess this presupposes, and this is where it gets tricky, that we share, loosely, a value-system that we – both parties – hold as central to our lives. It is, perhaps, hard to trust someone deeply if their values are very different from one's own.
When we give someone our trust, it's reasonable to suppose that they will bear in mind our rights, and our wellbeing, with regard to their actions. Someone we trust will not compete with us, put us down, diminish us, or take what isn't freely given. They will make our life bigger, not smaller.
Then there's self-responsibility, which means something like taking responsibility for their own words and actions, and especially when they mess up (rather than denying, blaming, guilt-tripping and hitting out). This requires a certain level of self-awareness, and courage.
It means that they are willing to look at their own lies in relation to themselves, perhaps (because we all do lie to ourselves), and any duplicity, or economy with the truth, in relation to us.
It means they're willing to hear our point of view. It means they're willing to share theirs, too. And they won't be afraid to challenge us, or be challenged, without it being aggressive, harsh or blaming.
I guess it means that we trust their continuing intention to be kind, truthful, and honest; even though we all know that all of us will get it wrong sometimes.
We trust them, above all, to act with authenticity, which I guess is trusting them to act in a way that's true to themselves and their values, and therefore clear in its communication of what matters to them (of course this kind of clarity is always a work-in-progress, but I think it can be conveyed and intuited). So there's a willingness to be straight, even if it disappoints another.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer says in her famous 'The Invitation': 'I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.'
(OMD has said somewhere that she's lost count of the number of times people have corrected that word 'faithless' to 'faithFUL'. No, not FAITHFUL – faithless; meaning that when push comes to shove a person will not betray themselves to garner approval; that's the point.)
For me, that's perhaps the key: I trust someone when I know that they will, no matter what, not betray who they are, their deepest values, for the sake of convenience or comfort. The many people whom I love, I love dearly; and without exception they are true to themselves, and therefore they are true with me also.
I'm sure I've only skimmed the surface, and would be glad to hear your thoughts and additions?
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