Monday, 16 May 2022

5. Trust

Dear children, 

T-R-U-S-T - this could be a Wordle answer some day - is the first of several words in the puzzle of our person to person relationships that I hope to take apart and consider on the Puzzle Table I called Holiness. To look at these words, we need to be in a cooperative frame of mind where our best efforts are focused. 

On the right in North America!
I have talked to you about trust before. We trust that people driving in our area of the world will drive on the right hand side of the road, and that they will unfailingly stop at a red light (or a stop sign). (Where your auntie lives, the rule is the left side of the road - so take care and learn something new if you ever walk or drive there.) We trust those agreements about rules - we expect them - and our lives depend on them. Without such agreements we would be in a much more dangerous world. But trust is more wide ranging than this.

Money in the bank

We trust that if we put money in the bank, it will be safe, and we can get it out when we want. Some places that keep your money for you are called trust companies. It is our national government that defines our money and guarantees its value in relationship to the work that everyone in the country does. This is too big a piece to turn over without a few more letters. There are even some attempts to code trust into computer systems in the areas of money and property. The processing cost seems very high at this date (2022). Another puzzle piece that may belong to a different world.

We trust a person when they have a history of caring about us. Trust can grow and trust can be broken. It is an important aspect of a bigger puzzle piece, the idea of relationships: friends, family, and neighbors may be trustworthy. 

I wouldn't trust myself on this one

Trust implies a relationship with the other. So it presumes some knowledge of the person we trust. Perhaps someone we trust introduced them to us, or we know their work through what they have created or written. So we might trust our purchase and use of a new bicycle because the manufacturer has shown us how it works and they guarantee it. Trust indicates the existence of something of value to us that we would like to keep. And we trust our friends.

Governments require our trust and cooperation. If we feel they don't deserve it, we can vote them out of office (at least in this part of the world). If they are good at deception, they may lie to us about what they are doing, and then we are at their mercy because we have put them in power. We may have begun to trust them blindly and have been led astray in what we believe about them. Trust implies that we have some possibility of verifying that our relationship is what we expect and value.

How strange - we have moved from a positive aspect of a puzzle piece to its negative. It has both a light side and a dark side. There is an opposite to trust. This is suspicion, or skepticism, or just unfamiliarity. We are again in a position where we must judge.

And we have to ask the obvious questions - can I be trusted? If I make a promise, and don't keep it, can I be trusted? If I do something and say I did not, can I be trusted? If I say I am going somewhere for some reason, but I am really going for a different reason, can I be trusted? 

We all have trouble with promises - they are hard work. We all make mistakes - admitting that we made a mistake is difficult - we lose face, we blush, we are ashamed. Shame is a powerful emotion in us and a sign to us that we have to fix something. 

Maybe we leave that puzzle piece turned the other way for a moment. Some problems are big and need time to explore to let different and unexpected aspects of the issues come out. Let me assure you that this applies not just to individuals, or families, but to institutions, and even whole countries where the leaders are responsible for a problem and refuse to admit blame because they are trying to 'save face'. 

Emmet - truth

I think we can be sure that the truth will come out, so it is better to admit a problem sooner rather than later. Notice how time is bound together here - the past connects to the present.

I'm sure you remember Emmet in the Lego movie. Emmet can be expressed in three letters in the Hebrew alphabet - א מ ת  aleph, mem, and taf (right to left). The word אמת (in SimHebrew, amt) means truth. So Emmet Brickowski is a truthful character (in a fictional story of course). We can trust him. He may not make all the right moves all the time, but he will admit his errors and will try and correct them.

There are no shortcuts to establishing trust. Because of our human situation, we have to learn, grow, and judge what is good and what is not good. What seems good for us may not be good for others. So we must consider how we live with each other and with other creatures in the world. (I saw a gecko today - at least 8 inches long! Much too fast for me to catch. Big tail.)

Michelangelo Cerquozzi - Saint John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness
Michelangelo Cerquozzi -
Saint John the Baptist
Preaching in the Wilderness

Here's a story of a man named John who lived in the wilderness 2000 or so years ago. There were lots of geckos there, I'm sure. He wore clothes made from camel hair. He had a leather belt and ate locusts and wild honey. He was considered a holy person who said what was true. Listen to him in the old English translation:

And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

And people came to him to ask him: What should we do? And he said, If you have two coats, give one to someone who has none. And to the tax-collectors he said, Collect no more than what is due. And the soldiers asked, and he said: Don't be violent to anyone. Don't extort money from anyone. And be content with your wages.

So he told people to be fair and to care, and the tax-collectors to do their job, and the soldiers not to do what is expected of them.

What would he say to me? Programmer - admit your mistakes. Musician - do your practicing. Or to you? 

You might notice that John uses the word fruit as if some tree was bearing fruit. In this case the tree stands for each of us, or it could stand for family, school, organization, or group of people, or country. This is called metaphor. Are we 'really' a tree? No - but we can think of ourselves as starting from a seed and emerging above ground, and being watered and fertilized, and having the pests removed from our budding branches, and being trimmed, and the branches finding the light, and our gifts to the world maturing in their space like a tree bearing apples.

You have an apple tree and it is beginning to bear. Some of the fruit falls off each year and rots, providing compost and relieving the branches of too much weight. But some grows to maturity so it can be picked and eaten. What if a branch grew into a corner wall and one of the apples became square shaped? Or if it passed between a wire fence and the apple grew with wires cutting into it. Or what if bugs attacked it, threatening to destroy all the fruit? The gardeners would need to take some action, wouldn't they.

I am going to introduce some poems eventually - no reason why you should not know this first psalm. Notice the tree again.

Happy the person who does not walk in the advice of the wicked,
and in the way of sinners does not stand,
and in the seat of the scornful does not sit. 
In contrast: in the instruction of Yahweh is his delight,
and in his instruction he mutters day and night.
Such a one is like a tree transplanted by streams of water,
that gives its fruit in its time and its leaf does not wither.
And in all that it does, it thrives.
Not so the-many wicked,
in contrast: like chaff that wind blows. 

So they will not arise, the wicked, in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the-many righteous.

For Yahweh knows the way of those righteous,
but the way of those wicked will perish.

It's not like modern poetry - no rhymes - but it is compact - especially in the original language. And it introduces the idea of the Instruction of this one whose name is I will be. The advice might prove to be transforming. I mean - changing our time itself - fixing this reality of ours to an alternate reality that is and will be. 

I wonder, can we trust these ancient words about God? Can we trust God? Remember how little we know, and how every sentence with God in it is a mystery. I say we can trust but we must also verify and be prepared for surprises, and changes, and turning away from some things, and learning new things. I also think that this God built into us a serious streak of independence - this too is good. Such energy needs to be directed. The best direction will come from the one who builds us, that we should walk with care, and stand with integrity, and sit with consideration for others.

Till the next letter ...

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