Essay on Trust

Written in 2000.

Trust is shown in one’s handling of the incomprehensible.

The vacuum whirs loudly, its Cyclops-like headlamp casting a bright beam before it.

The cat sleeps.

The garage door raises, the car door slams, the house alarm beeps.

The cat sleeps.

Fiery explosions, screaming people, bright flashes from the television.

Still the cat sleeps.

Trust is an interesting quality.  It is the difference between “knowing” that a chair will support you and actually sitting in it.  It is putting your life where your mouth is.  It is a sacrifice of personal control.  It is more than hoping or praying; it is stepping out to see those dreams and visions fulfilled.

It is risk-taking.

Science and experience often tend to bog people down, shaping how and what they attempt to trust, and robbing trust of the potential liberty (and even security) that it affords.  Hesitation and doubt occur, because we “know” better; some things just can’t possibly be.  No sense in placing a losing bet.  There’s no hope for fulfillment, no worthwhile return on such an investment.  The ideal is often the impractical, or the ridiculous.  Grow up—don’t waste your time on fantasy.

My cat is thirteen years old.  She knows, and she benefits from it.  She doesn’t lose a wink of sleep in my presence.  My cat is free to sleep anywhere, anytime—free from threat or insecurity or worry or fright—so long as I’m there.  She doesn’t know what I’m doing or why I’m doing it, but it doesn’t matter.  I’m the one that’s doing it, so she knows she need not fear.  Could I harm my cat?  The physical potential (though not the will) is certainly there, but not in her mind.  Every time she lays in the driveway as my car rolls up she risks that I will not stop.  But to her it is not a risk.  It’s me, which inherently brings freedom from danger.

Trust seems to be a quality more of the trusted, rather than the trusting.  Trustworthiness has great potential, but it is often earned, proven.  Many other personality traits seem to require less development.  One rarely needs to do much to prove that one is a bigot, a liar, lacking in manners, intelligent, or shy.  Trustworthiness seems to take a lifetime to establish, and merely one act to destroy.

My cat sees it the other way.

Acts of love are all she needs to see to know her trust is well-placed.  The itchy flea-medication, the poking of a wound, the horrid-tasting elixir—none of these things undermine her trust in me.  Her trust is all-encompassing.  She relaxes in knowing that as long as I am the one involved, she needn’t be concerned.  No matter what.  No matter the temporary discomfort.  No matter the confusion.  No matter the pleasure.  Throughout all, she trusts: she trusts me, and she places her trust in me.

Trust, by its nature, cannot be wavering.  It either exists or it does not.  Trust that is not solidified or realized is simple belief or desire or a nice idea.  It is not faith.  It is not hope.  It does not grant security or freedom.  It withstands no trials and conquers no fears.  It answers no questions.  It provides no strength of conviction or compromise.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but trust lets it live.


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