trust the motion

Some writers are so good at describing the experience of the senses—Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Colors and flavors can be so gorgeous.

I’m not naturally good at that. I usually have to go back and force myself to put that kind of description in. It doesn’t come naturally to me.

What DOES come naturally is motion. Go go go…move… what’s next? What’s after that? Stick my thumb in to turn the next page as soon I’ve flipped the last one.

Momentum. Keep moving, be ready to dodge around and obstacles. I’m only resting when I’m in motion. Many of my books have been written while riding a bus.

This is the Weekly Wonder, though. I do take time to wonder about the how and the why.

Last week I talked about trust.  This week I’m thinking about the story of the Pencil.

Do you know how to make a pencil?  The humble pencil, how hard can it be?

Harder than it seems. Where did this wood come from? What had to happen to get it to the place where it could be formed into a pencil? And that doesn’t even take into account the lead…which isn’t lead anymore, but is the part that lets the pencil write. And that is the whole point of a pencil, right?

I’m not sure how much thought all these players put into their jobs that lead up to the pencil. They might not be picturing a pencil. Likely every part of the process has more objects being created than a pencil.

The pencil is almost a side effect of all the motion that these workers are doing. The highly productive output, making useful things out of material. They are each doing their respective jobs, with the systems working almost independently of the output.

That’s another layer of trust. Trust in the systems that are all working together in complex and mostly incomprehensible ways.

I can’t know how that pencil is created. I can stay in motion and do my part of the dance.

I can’t know everything. I have to trust the systems I am part of, with awareness and reflection as I join and add my bit.

It is already in motion. I want to move with it and trust that the motion will smooth out the errors. There are too many things I can’t do alone.

Expectations and Trust

I have always been insecure about my education and knowledge. I knew I hadn’t been taught the things I wished I knew.


Read Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes and he painstakingly wrote down how society was to be structured. It wasn’t structured like that yet, but he was putting out a LOOOONNNGGG treatise on how it could be done.

When Leviathan was written, the commonwealth it described did not exist. What did exist was a set of expectations and habits of how a society should work. Since those expectations were reasonably fulfilled, this amounted to trust.

Trust is what makes human interactions work. I loan you my broom to sweep your sidewalk, I am taking a risk. But if you prove my trust by returning it, then I might be able to borrow your shovel when I have to dig in my garden. Since we trust each other, I am saved the cost of buying a shovel and you are saved the cost of buying a broom.

What a happy little neighborhood. Since we have built this trust through exchange, we might even leave both tools in an unlocked place where each person has access. It’s more convenient.

Until some jerk from outside the neighborhood comes in and steals both items.

Oh no! Now we are both poorer, and we are suspicious of all strangers. Not only are we suspicious, we are hostile.

Which is a real shame, because if we had maintained the trust, we could have expanded our collective set of tools and made everyone’s life easier. The next guy might have had a spray nozzle for the hose, which I could have used on my garden and gotten even more tomato crop. I would have shared with my neighbors and we all would be increasingly healthier and shinier.

Here in the 21st century I’ve been living that dream. Here in America, a culture that fostered that kind of trust, we are healthier and shinier. Go stand next to any North Korean and see the difference. Americans are taller than the malnourished and oppressed citizens of that sad country.

It is a risk to trust, for sure. That broom of mine is vulnerable. I could get all worked up over it. I need walk around safely and not trip over debris! Me and my family could trip and get seriously hurt. I have to protect my family and that means protecting my broom.

Trust is risky. I’m not in control.

And even more, that risk leaves me trapped in indecision. Remember those expectations and habits that made up the culture? When those habits and practices are abandoned, then the trust is broken.

I KNOW it would help us both to share our tools. But I’ve been burned. I’ve watched others get burned. How do I make that leap and release my tight grip on what I have struggled to own?

It’s natural to cling to my own. The aberration is the trust.

When a novel corona virus showed up on earth, trust sustained an injury. Sharing space, sharing air, trusting one another took on a new level of risk. The whole world rocked the other way.

I feel it in many areas that were common practices before. Here’s one example. Like many, I lost my job in 2020. I found another one, lost in and found another one.

And I felt the difference from before. Yes, I got a lot of interviews. I had gotten a lot of interviews pre=covid. But there was a hesitancy. More and more interviews were required. I felt a hesitancy to take the risk of making a decision. Even the people in charge of making decisions—executives—couldn’t find the wherewithal to execute.

It has taken a long time to build up the water table of trust in our culture. It was more than 400 years ago that Hobbes wrote his Leviathan showing how a commonwealth could do it. The 10 commandments are thousands of years old.

Trust is thankfully a renewable resource. But it takes intention to renew it. It means taking risks and suffering loss.

In the end, the vision is that we all are better off. I will have to trust that vision is the true one. I believe it can be if we do it together.

Opposite stories

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

– From Walden by Henry David Thoreau

The sad and choked lives of most people, as imagined by Thoreau in the quote above, leads to the ersatz thrill seeking of super hero movies. Video games with their challenges and puzzles to solve, and people to rescue makes a good substitute for getting out of the mundane problems in life.

The real obstacles might ask too much of me. Am I really ready to quite my job? Will I have to drop everything and get that graduate degree?

It’s easier to watch a movie and get some sleep.

I’m gonna say, those stories are with us for a reason. The bards, the troubadours, and the storytellers are a deep part of who we are as human beings. That quiet desperation walks with us, and the story tellers will remind us of what is possible. One day, eventually, I might be able to get the idea that moves me out of the desperation and into a move.

And that puts me into another category altogether. Those stories that inspired me to make a move? The heroes whose exploits made me stand up and step up?

Now I’m in the midst of it. It might be time for a different kind of story. When I’m in the arena, I might want simpler fare.

There’s a different set of stories the troubadours know. Something soothing and peaceful. When real life is exciting enough, I need a story that lets me know things can be peaceful.

I’m careful with my stories. I have to be self-aware enough to know what I need. Right now, today, I need a cup of tea. Herbal.

I’m reading the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Andrew Mccall Smith. He has strung together a long series of stories to give me exactly what I’m looking for.

Scraping together opportunities

We had plans and they hit a wall. That’s tough for a 14 year-old celebrating her birthday.

We rescheduled but that left us with today and it was bleak. There had been plans, there had been high anticipation and now…I had to substitute something for my daughter.

We thought a brunch with French toast would help. As we drove over to our favorite 50s diner, I remembered something.

“This is the last Saturday of the month. My friend used to play music with at the famer’s market. I always tried to go see her play.

“She loves playing music so much that she has three or four jobs so she can play music. It’s that important to her. She knows for sure that it’s the most important thing.

My kid was listening, but she didn’t have much to add. I turned into the parking lot.

I have a great number of things I want to do in life. I am also right at this moment trying to advise my kid on the cusp of high school how to choose a life path. We have been trying to talk about the things one could do.

It’s not such a straight path. I certainly did not follow a brochure to find the career I have found.

I am sure that is true for a lot of people. How did all the circumstances line up to arrive at the now?

I admire my musician friend’s clarity. A rare few artists are so committed to their artistic efforts that they place it at primary place. An even fewer number make enough money from their art to sustain themselves.

The rest of us shuffle our to-do’s and priorities to keep both food and a roof. We grownups have to scrape together a plan from whatever is left lying around., I tried the doors to see if any were unlocked. Then I mustered up the courage to walk through the open ones.

It didn’t always work out. Just like the night before a birthday party, there was anticipation and sleep lost. And some things slipped out of my grasp.

Me and my daughter were having breakfast and coming to terms with her latest disappointment. That might be one of the most grownup things a person could do.

Keep going

Walking is supposed to one of the first key skills humans learn. My mom tells me it took forever for me to learn to walk. My three older brothers kept knocking me down. But I did eventually master it.

Those brothers became more useful to me in that other human skill: reading and writing. I got some help with the letters and that became one of my favorite things to do.

I know writing is something that it seems like almost everyone can do, but making something to share is a little different. I’m trying to get better and write at a higher level. I am glad, dear reader, that you are reading what I’m writing.

To be precise, though, people have not always been able to write. Prehistorically, things weren’t written down. Even after writing was invented, humans didn’t write everything down. The stories that were captured and preserved until the present day are like a time machine.

What were people like back then? How did they see the world and what was important to them?

I have a set of journals…no, diaries… from when I was a teenager. Who was this person who wrote so faithfully? It’s a dim and faded record of who I once was. A frozen record of what I used to be.

My writing pinned me to a card like a specimen bug—a piece of my history.

I just finished reading a book from 1298: The Travels of Marco Polo

That’s a piece of history from a long time ago. Still—I thought I would know what people in the thirteen hundreds thought was important. This book is so famous, I figured it would be full of the sort of stories I would expect from the middle ages.

I was wrong. It surprised me to find what he thought was important. He was far more practical that I would have expected.

What was even more interesting is how the readers of this book loved it. I am impressed with the readers of 700 years ago. This book was passed on from reader to reader, translated so often that there aren’t any original copies left.

All of Europe was very interested in what was over the horizon. Not just the crazy stories, but the how and the what. We have the record in this book.

And then we have the record—the history—of what came after. Columbus read the story of the spices and had to get some ships over there.

Marco Polo had the adventure, and he needed someone to help him write it down. He found a writing partner in prison. Rustichello de Pisa is the one that wrote it all down and made this book that captured so many people’s attention. And kept it.