How is it we decide in whom to place our trust?
Is there a test, an audition of sorts, in which a stranger
must perform deeds requiring bravery or good will? Is it the look in their eyes, the tilt of
their heads, the clothes they wear? Does
longevity count, a period of good behavior that equals permanent trusted
status? Is it harder to trust someone
new, or to come to the shocking, painful realization that we have judged
someone wrong, and they cannot be trusted after all?
In truth, we are not so rational about it. No test but instinct is applied, that and the
simple expedience of opportunity. We
trust others because they are there, and what choice do we have? A solitary life hidden behind the walls we
create to protect ourselves.
How did you choose your path in life? Did you spend your childhood wanting it? Did you work hard in your formative years to
acquire it? I’m betting not. Most of us take the path that lies most
clearly before us, the one laid out for us by the constraints of our upbringing
and our circumstances.
Free will? Sort
of. We are only free to choose that
which we can conceive of, and that is bound on all sides. Race, religion, gender, socio-economic
status, parental expectations, the state of the economy, war, the country in
which we are raised, the decade in which we are born, and the hierarchy.
Humans need food, air, and water. They need to feel secure. They need love and the esteem of others. Only after these conditions are met can they
begin to develop a sense of power over their destinies. Only then can they form true intentions.
Many people never come to intention. The other needs are hard to meet, requiring
much time and effort. Sometimes
intention comes too late. You follow a
path, the path that brings you food and air and safety and love and esteem, and
in doing so you walk right by the other paths, the riskier ones, the ones you
don’t take because you can’t see around the bend, and the ones you don’t take
because you can’t even see the path. It
is outside your scope. And having passed
by the path, you never come upon it again.
Legend has it that delta bluesman Robert Johnson sold his
soul to the devil in exchange for his ungodly talent. I’ll tell you this: I wouldn’t sell my soul
for anything. Not because I fear the
devil (not having been trained to do so in my youth), but because I can dredge
up no desire that strong. What are
dreams, anyway? The paths we passed up. The choices we make at every juncture send us
down roads we didn’t know were there.
What would you give to have the chance to go back and make a different
choice, go down a different road, find out where it leads? Would it be worth your soul?
I walked away from the offices of the newspaper that
employed me, the Crossroads Chronicle. Bill and I had been living in the clean-linen
rooming house for six months. I wrote stories
of small town happenings; he played every night except Sunday and Monday at the
bar next to the train tracks. I had
never seen another train pass through town since the night we arrived.
When I got to the house I found him on the front porch,
strumming his guitar.
better come on in my kitchen, it’s goin’ to be rainin’ outdoors
When a woman gets in trouble, everybody throws her down
Lookin’ for yo’ good friend, none can be found
You better come on in my kitchen, it’s goin’ to be rainin’ outdoors
“Bill,” I said, “I don’t need to be redeemed. I haven’t done anything wrong.”
He put down the guitar and ran a hand through his hair, more
gray now, I noticed, than the night we met.
“I know, sweetheart.”
In my room I put on my wool coat, stuffing some coins in the
deep pockets. I kissed Bill’s head
before climbing down the porch steps. I
walked past the abandoned train tracks, down the crickety farm road, and out
onto the highway. I stuck out my thumb
and hitched a ride north.