Can there be joy in contracts?

We might look at contracts as cold and boring or tiresome things, but aren’t they also a powerful sense of mutual commitment? This sense in which two or more parties have agreed to uphold something with a specific end in mind. Isn’t there almost a joy to the notion that humans might freely commit to tie themselves into the terms and conditions necessary to bring something worthwhile to life?

Looking, in broad brush terms, at the development of Western society, it seems that contracts, character, bonds, obligations and trust were always quite central ideas: this sense in which society was conceived as an agreement, a contract between citizens and the machinery developed to govern their lives (Notes One). That the conflict of times past would be replaced by the relative peace of clear terms.

Isn’t it all woven into notions of trust? That the ideas behind “all this” were right, trustworthy, and would lead to a better world. That society was filled with people whose word could be trusted, who would uphold their commitments and do all they could to permeate society with the kinds of thinking and attitudes that would serve it well. That we were in this together, and our path paved with mutual concern. (Notes Two)

Don’t laws, idealistically, aim to delineate how this ambitious contract should work? Sketching out all the areas where we must rein ourselves in and bear the interests of others firmly in mind. This delicate web of mutual regulation whereby the existence of each individual is respected, protected and, hopefully, enhanced. The fine print for exactly how our lives can come together in a vision of perfect harmony, perhaps.

Of course, we’re perhaps not entirely conscious of that – this being an almost invisible, largely unspoken contract we’re essentially born into rather than something we’ve read through and decided to sign up for. A sort of inherited engagement we’re loosely aware of unless we choose to delve more thoroughly into its limitations.

Maybe that’s the thing? There “could” be joy in contracts, provided we feel they serve us well. If people are feeling this particular inheritance isn’t offering them much opportunity, maybe it’s only natural they’d rail against it and seek to redress the terms. If people, through no fault of their own, inherit an impossible hand in life, what are we to ask them to make of it? (Notes Three)

Getting back on track, though, aren’t contracts – in principle, at least – beautiful pictures of reciprocal commitment? Of individuals engaging to take part in a dance of give and take for the sake of everyone’s ultimate benefit. Although, perhaps only if terms are freely entered into and benefits are real and mutual.

If advantages are storing up on one side while obligations stack up on the other, can that be fair? If things are leading into a future that benefits some while coming at great cost to others, might it not be that the original spirit of this may have gone terribly awry?

Notes and References:

Note 1: “Quest for a Moral Compass”
Note 1: Contracts, social or commercial
Note 1: The self within society
Note 1: Obligations and contributions
Note 2: Situations which ask us to trust
Note 2: Codes of behaviour
Note 2: Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Note 3: Value and meaning in our lives
Note 3: Humans, tangled in these systems
Note 3: Advantage people don’t want to concede
Note 3: Desire to retreat, need to engage

Thinking of contracts as akin to the realities our lives all form part of, there’s also Systems, their power, whose hands?

Ways to share this:

Giving others space to be

If life’s some sort of dance of the spaces and rights existing between us, how aware are we of those mutual obligations? Isn’t our sharing of land, opportunities and resources all some sort of delicate balance? This sense in which “life” is almost always some form of give and take as we interact with one another throughout the course of all our lives. Yet, how often are we honouring the perhaps unspoken rules governing it all? (Notes One)

It just seems that humans have “always” existed in some version of that dance – societies having been ordered in various ways, around various principles, following various rules or priorities in terms of how this thing should “work”. As if “the dance” just changes as communities decide to arrange themselves in different ways, around different values or visions of what they hope to achieve by way of the discipline involved.

In that, isn’t there always a delicate line between self and others? This boundary where discipline or commitment comes into play and we don’t take a step that we “could” because we understand why we shouldn’t: that, in doing so, we’d be stepping into the space reserved for others. Don’t we come upon such lines all the time in life? All those times we have to preserve others’ rights by limiting our own.

Maybe it’s a physical line, where taking more than our share or not taking care over shared resources creates problems for others. Maybe it’s an intellectual line, where we need to respect others’ freedom to think or believe as they choose. Maybe it’s interpersonal, in how we afford one another the space to live, to be, to express themselves and not meet with another’s judgement. (Notes Two)

It just seems such a fundamental part of society: the frameworks we have around each other and how we’ll coexist. If we’re not thinking of others, won’t that accumulate to almost unfathomable sources of stress within daily life? If, at every turn, we’re coming upon situations where it’s clear we’re not all abiding by the same sense of how “this” needs to work, won’t we start to feel frustrated or disengaged from it all?

Whether disengagement stems from modern life, technology, overwhelm, migration, or any combination of other sources, isn’t it problematic just the same? If we’re not on the same page in terms of “how we’re relating to others” won’t our communities be strained in countless cumulative ways? All these niggling scratches where evidence suggests people are thinking differently, of themselves or not of you. (Notes Three)

We might spin this in terms of intolerance, social awareness, aggression, empathy or any manner of other phrases, but isn’t the core principle the same? This sense in which we sorely need to define and respect the spaces around ourselves and others – human beings – if we’re to see life in such a way that allows us all to enjoy it as best we’re able while contributing all we have to offer one another within community.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Note 1: Integrity and integration
Note 1: Situations which ask us to trust
Note 2: These ideas we have of one another
Note 2: Solving all the problems we’re creating
Note 2: What we create by our presence
Note 3: Lacking the human side of community?
Note 3: Might we lose our social muscles?
Note 3: Can “how we relate” really change?

For some early thoughts from a few years’ back, Having boundaries discussed the value of the lines between us.

Ways to share this:

Treading carefully in the lives of others

How easy is it to judge others? To wander into the realms of their being and cast forth our thoughts about how their life is, what it means and all the obvious improvements they could make. To laugh at mistakes or choices we would never make, somehow imagining “our” way of being and thoughts about life to be the right ones – if only others could see things as we do and do as we say.

Sometimes it seems we’re almost being “trained” in that kind of deconstructive thinking. Don’t all these shows we watch and conversations we have model exactly how we could be picking everything apart; dissecting intentions; evaluating appearances. As if that’s the only way to approach life: critically. As if the world’s just there, waiting for us to cast judgement upon it all. (Notes One)

Yet, aren’t all of our thoughts, beliefs and ways of being deeply tied up with “who we are” as people? Everything standing within the framework of “the human life” and growing out of all we’ve lived through and come to think about it. All the words, gestures or estimations of worth others have cast in our direction. All the conclusions we’ve reached or ideas that we came to believe. (Notes Two)

Don’t we all have different things that speak to our soul? Different interests – be they cultural, literary, visual, or whatever else – that, for us, make life sing in colours that make our own worth living. Who’s the say which “style” is best? Which way we should grow our hair, hold ourselves, speak or act in the world. How we should be presenting our homes, our online presence or our selves to make the best impressions.

If all we hear when we look in the mirror is the judgements others have made – or, might make – of us, how are we to live? Won’t we always be hearing criticism? There’s presumably always “something” we can attack; something that could be done differently or, perhaps, better. In a world full of options, we could spend forever trying to find exactly the right ones or arguing between the relative merits of them all (Notes Three).

Almost as if all we’re doing here is trying to make “them” wrong and “us” right. Anything we do could be done another way. Any position we’re choosing to take could be harnessed into a watertight defence and ridden confidently through all the other opinions. We might pass all our time telling others where they’re mistaken and convincing them to agree with us.

When it comes to others’ lives, though – their choices, wounds, ideas, experiences, struggles – are we ever “right” to wander into their space and cast judgements? If each person’s a house, filled with all their life has furnished them with, what does it “mean” to walk in, pull everything off the shelves, critique it all, then say we’re doing it to help them? Who are we to say what they’re living with, hoping for, or trying to achieve?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Society that doesn’t deal with the soul
Note 1: Thoughts of idealism and intolerance
Note 1: What is it with tone?
Note 2: The stories that we hear
Note 2: Where do we get our ideas from
Note 2: Frameworks of how we relate
Note 2: Personal archaeology
Note 3: Absolute or relative value?
Note 3: Tempting justifications of self
Note 3: Meaning in a world of novelty

Ways to share this:

Belief in what we cannot see

With anything we’re looking at in life, how much can we know and how much is belief? Isn’t almost anything we think a form of belief? Belief in the validity of a certain way of seeing, piecing together and thinking about life. Thought’s funny in that, much as it helps us a great deal, isn’t it equally capable of tying everything up in knots? Untangling and ironing out exactly “how” it helps or hinders seems a strange challenge.

I mean, we might claim “modern Western thought” is merely “knowledge”: this system we’ve developed for relying on what our senses, or tools designed to amplify them, tell us about the observable nature of reality. A reality committed to the world of thought and pulled apart into all the theories we’ve strung together to explain it (Notes One).

Isn’t it a form of belief to assume the physical world is the only reality, though? This basic assumption that all that exists is “what’s observable by human senses”. As if we’re detectives, searching through physical evidence, probing deeper and deeper, in the hope we’ll eventually find the whole truth on that level. As if nothing animates it all – nothing invisible, unquantifiable, immeasurable. (Notes Two)

Sometimes it feels like we might be digging our own grave – denying our own existence – by clinging to this belief that only the evidence matters. Almost as if “our way of thought” is as much a question of faith as any other: belief that this is all there is. Like an anti-religion, insisting there’s “nothing beyond” because we cannot see it. Isn’t it entirely conceivable there could be an intelligible realm beyond all this?

But, pulling that back a little, isn’t knowledge also always a question of what we believe something “means”? As if knowledge itself is as much “the facts” as it is the theories we see them sitting within and conclusions they allow us to reach – these whole bodies of connected thought we accept as true and build our lives around.

What if the meaning we see as true carries as much weight as facts themselves? This invisible world of thought where we’ve each strung together our own set of beliefs around life’s meaning; ideas we’re then acting on in every area of our lives. Each person, perhaps, living in their own unique world of personally accepted meaning about self, society, ethics or reason.

Pulling back to the everyday, don’t our thoughts affect every aspect of how we’re living? Beliefs about our relationship with society and which voices we trust to tell us “the truth” must shape a large part of the world we all live within. Ideas of what things mean, how they come together, the forces at play and best paths to take “becoming” what reality then “is” (Notes Three).

Some might spin together seemingly reasonable theories about what’s going on and the choices we should make, but how well those ideas will translate into reality – the path they’re leading us on – sometimes seems doubtful.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Ways thought adds spin to life
Note 1: Making things up as we go along
Note 1: How ideas find their place in the world
Note 1: Caught in these thoughts
Note 2: Spirit as the invisible
Note 2: What is real?
Note 2: Losing the sense of meaning
Note 2: Mastering life’s invisible realities
Note 3: What if it all means something?
Note 3: The relationship between statistics & reality
Note 3: Society as an imposition?
Note 3: One thing leads to another

Ways to share this:

The relationship between statistics & reality

In thinking about life, how much do statistics shape things? While often painted as this fairly neutral representation of reality, don’t they also have an effect? Giving pictures of reality in such a way as to inform our responses or leave us feeling certain trends form inevitable paths we must follow. Almost these strange scientific predictions; wielding a power not dissimilar to superstition.

Of course, that’s not really “true” in the sense that they do depict reality through making inquiries of it and presenting the results. But aren’t there numerous ways things can be represented, many conclusions that could be drawn, and a deep significance to the questions being asked? So many variables that could make the same, raw situation appear quite differently, then lead us down different paths.

As thinking beings, aren’t we looking to statistics to inform us about reality? Valuing the oversight and insight this offers in terms of understanding situations deeply and purposefully enough to chart our way within them. Numbers giving us this dispassionate, objective sense of how things stand and where we stand within them. This very specific way of breaking “life” down into calculations for navigating it.

But, isn’t there an interesting space to be found between reality and our thoughts about it? This space where we create and maintain our understanding of life and how best to live it – a place filled with values, priorities, beliefs, opinions, inferences, judgements and evaluations. That delicate line between how we see things and how we will act (Notes One).

Don’t our ideas always, subtly filter out through the choices we’re making each day? Through our attitudes and assumptions; words and gestures; habitual and occasional decisions. Everything we do becoming this rhythm of how we’ll interact with the world – the kinds of sentiment or belief we’re giving voice to and bringing to life through our presence (Notes Two).

Ideas about reality “must” always be shaping how we’re acting within it and responding to all we find around us. And, increasingly, it seems we view situations quite coldly – as if others were patterns or types rather than people to care about. As if, given our overwhelm, we “can” use the cold lens of data to read and analyse human existence.

In some areas, why would we ever rely on statistics? Say, with faith: do the reported beliefs of any number of people bear any meaningful relation to what we ourselves might believe? Given how belief, by its nature, exists in that subjective space of “how we see things”, it can’t really be affected by data, trends or the decisions of others. (Notes Three)

Isn’t life, then, almost a question of belief? Our ideas around what matters; whether individual contributions count; or the trust we’ll place in others. Life, in its way, depicting our understanding of reality and belief in what’s possible. Whether those choices are shaped by statistical representations of bleak situations or trust in what our lives could serve to create must make quite a difference.

Notes and References:

Note 1: All that we add to neutrality
Note 1: Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Note 1: Understanding & staying informed
Note 1: Being trusted to use our discernment…
Note 2: What we create by our presence
Note 2: Any such thing as normal?
Note 2: Values, and what’s in evidence
Note 2: Things we give voice to
Note 3: The picture data paints of us
Note 3: Spirit as the invisible
Note 3: What if it all means something?
Note 3: Ideas that tie things together

Ways to share this:

Knowing the value of what you have

How much do we value what we have in life? Sometimes it seems a lot more time is spent drawing up lists of wishes or things we’d like to change than is spent appreciating all we actually have. It’s probably where gratitude practices have slipped in – techniques people are using to pull focus out of the past or the future and place it more firmly into the present moment. Because, isn’t it important that we do?

If we’re not valuing things rightly, how will we know to preserve them? Understanding the importance, significance or worth of something seems an essential step toward insuring we protect and carry forward everything that truly matters (Notes One). If we’re forgetting – or, never being told – what matters and why, don’t we risk leaving behind things we and others may wish we hadn’t?

At various times here I’ve mused over all the past places in our hands: the heritage of history with all its artefacts and forms of wisdom; the systems we’re living within; the responsibility of maintaining and, hopefully, enriching it all (Notes Two). This sense in which the passing of time forever hands the treasures of the past and possibility of refining them into the care of subsequent generations.

It seems such an important task to convey the meaning of all that’s gone before; the vision people had in mind; the work still in hand. This momentous passing down of “all it is to be human” alongside an appreciative grasp of all the everyday activities and attitudes that help keep everything running smoothly (Notes Three). Don’t we need both the bigger picture and the practical details in order to carry on that work?

When it comes to Western society, then, how much do we value what it offers? What was this strange intellectual activity that set about arguing for and enshrining in law the principles of universal human freedom? This attempt to delineate every aspect of our lives then create a framework of mutually beneficial boundaries within which individuals can live as they please. (Notes Four)

Perhaps it’s simply this notion of us all being free to pursue our interests, chart our course, and clamber to the top of whatever mountains we’ve been inspired to climb. This sense of everyone making their own way – making the most of what nature gave them – in the economic and cultural environment of any given society. Of taking the ideal of freedom and working it into the fabric of society.

It seems such an admirable step within the history of humanity – to have applied our minds to working out the conditions for us all to exercise our freedom without stepping on one another’s toes. The very idea of creating a system able to contain and carry all people forward toward a better, more harmonious, less problematic future seems a beautiful thing for the past to have thrown its energy behind.

As those on the receiving end, isn’t this a weighty treasure to have placed in our hands?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Seeing, knowing and loving
Note 1: Value and meaning in our lives
Note 1: Appreciating other ways of being
Note 2: Cutting corners
Note 2: Trust in technology?
Note 2: How ideas find their place in the world
Note 2: Life’s never been simpler…
Note 2: On whose terms?
Note 3: Passing on what’s important
Note 3: Understanding what we’re all part of
Note 3: If society’s straining apart, what do we do?
Note 3: Society as an imposition?
Note 4: Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Note 4: “Quest for a Moral Compass”
Note 4: Plato & “The Republic”

Ways to share this:

Where’s the reset button & can we press it?

If the world were a system we could somehow reset, which point would we choose to return to? Beyond that, could we actually be confident we’d do much better at things than we have done? While it might be tempting to imagine things having taken a different course – this collective process of “what if” – it’s perhaps hard to see exactly where, why or how things drifted off in all these questionable directions.

Then there’s the fact that with any “what if” – be it individual or collective – we clearly risk losing the good with the bad: those being the paths that brought us to exactly this moment with these thoughts, experiences, connections and relationships, would we ever truly choose to “delete” those gains in the hope of some hypothetical, idealised alternative? Maybe there’s a truth to our paths; a wisdom gained through walking them.

The “what if” seems a natural process of thought, though: this re-running to pinpoint exactly where something went wrong and how we might’ve acted differently for another outcome. The mind as a sort of memory-detective seeking insight through analysing, deconstructing and re-imagining things. At its most extreme, perhaps we’d end up trapped in our own past, paralysed by our mistakes.

Of course, there may be value to be gained in understanding and learning from events – seeing our agency in them and how our mistaken beliefs or interpretations might’ve influenced things in ways we now know to avoid. The past, in many ways, being the teacher of all we didn’t yet know or fully appreciate the significance of (Notes One).

There seems a certain tangled wisdom to the fact that, looking back, we’re always judging with the eyes experience has honed for us: having been through things, we now know to see them differently. As if life itself is revealing our shortcomings to us by highlighting all those things we didn’t quite understand as we should.

If the systems of the West are struggling, then, is it because we didn’t quite understand how to create a society that actually “worked”? This sense in which the past’s finest, most influential thinkers put together this “thing” we now live within: this interlocking, mutually reinforcing set of ideas, assumptions, principles, theories and practices that, over time, have evolved and developed into all we now find around us (Notes Two).

Imagining that, in all likelihood, one or many of those ideas could’ve been flawed, mightn’t we now find ourselves within rather a large, complex “machine” weighed down by the cumbersome inertia of tradition but carried along by its own momentum? How are we to manoeuvre within such a system to correct any mistakes and redress all the many problems they’ve caused? (Notes Three)

Maybe this is “always” the case with any kind of history? That, having learnt from the paths it placed us on, we can see the need for change. Being sure we know enough to avoid creating further problems ourselves, though, seems an equally important thing to be grappling with.

Notes and References:

Note 1: The philosopher stance
Note 1: Problems & the thought that created them
Note 1: On whose terms?
Note 1: Imperfection as perfection?
Note 2: One thing leads to another
Note 2: Humans, tangled in these systems
Note 2: Shaping the buildings that shape us
Note 2: “Quest for a Moral Compass”
Note 2: The self within society
Note 3: Pace of change & getting nowhere fast
Note 3: Knowledge, capacity & understanding
Note 3: Having confidence in complex systems
Note 3: What if solutions aren’t solutions?
Note 3: “The Obstacle is the Way”

Imagining where we are headed and how we might get there was also the focus of Navigation, steering & direction.

Ways to share this:

Understanding what we’re all part of

If we’re looking to understand life, where do we start? Maybe we look at things from the top down and bottom up; considering everything in the light of that fundamental division. Perhaps we look from the inside out and outside in – at what life means from those perspectives. It could be no “one way” of looking is entirely complete, but don’t we have to understand this reality somehow?

There are perhaps countless ways we could attempt to make sense of modern life: many lenses to look through, viewpoints to take, theories to spin around where we stand and what our priorities should be. Maybe there are as many perspectives as there are people? Each looking at life based on their experience, understanding and expectations of it and forming their own, personal judgements (Notes One).

How can we ever be sure, then, of being on the same page? This idea of everyone singing from the same hymn sheet as we strive towards the same vision of the life we’re hoping to create. Sometimes it seems we might all be standing on slightly different fracture lines within the same, one reality – each having experienced life differently, becoming aware of slightly different aspects of “how things are”.

Can any one theory or solution encompass all that our lives have exposed us to? Won’t each view of reality always be unique, significant, and personally lived? Each thread of humanity bearing within it an individually-experienced reflection of the world we all share. Each person perhaps hoping their existence matters to the others of their kind, as we’re all making choices that affect one another.

Thinking of life from the inside out, we might focus on what life’s like from each person’s perspective: the messages they receive, expectations placed upon them, labels they’re asked to live with, opportunities offered, and so forth. This sense of how “life” presents itself to each person and the meaning embedded in every aspect of that reality – the face the world turns towards them. (Notes Two)

Equally, we might look at our lives from the outside in, in terms of the messages we send through how we’re living. Don’t all our choices ripple out to create a discernible picture for those on the periphery? Our values and priorities effectively on display there through the way we’re acting with regard to those in different times, places or stations of life. (Notes Three)

If all that we do carries meaning and serves to either build up or take down structures within our lives, isn’t it important to understand what that picture is? What our actions “say” and “mean” from every side seems a fundamental part of reality. While it’s far from easy to figure out exactly what’s happening now and how it’s fitting together on the global level, isn’t it part of our responsibility to try? (Notes Four)

Understanding how we got here, what we were hoping to achieve, and how well that’s working out seems such an essential part of being human.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Absolute or relative value
Note 1: Making things up as we go along
Note 1: All that we add to neutrality
Note 2: Humans, tangled in these systems
Note 2: Imperfection as perfection?
Note 2: Society that doesn’t deal with the soul
Note 3: Being trusted to use our discernment…
Note 3: The picture data paints of us
Note 3: Values, and what’s in evidence
Note 4: Will things change if we don’t make them?
Note 4: Too much responsibility?
Note 4: Navigation, steering & direction

Ways to share this:

Mutual awareness and accommodation?

Society, in a number of ways, seems like a dance: the spaces around us, the interactions, the give and take, the moments we meet and then move apart. All these ways our lives intersect and something’s exchanged between us, be it goods or greetings or whatever else we have to offer one another in life. Community, in its own way, being this dance of individuals working together for the overall effect it produces.

If we conceive of society as a gathering of people for a common purpose, it must be that we all have our parts to play as well as points where we benefit from all others are doing. The coordination of it all seems quite staggering, really; especially in the West, where so much essentially rests on personal freedoms and market forces (Notes One).

Doesn’t it all depend on a degree of awareness? That we understand the value of what we’re engaged in and the responsibilities we have within it all. That we grasp these invisible lines and interactions between us, knowing how to operate so the whole “thing” runs smoothly, harmoniously, even beautifully. If we don’t see that picture – or, believe in it – what will that mean?

Taking it down to the everyday, even how we move together in space seems significant. Especially now, with the added requirements of social distancing for the preservation of our communities, but also more generally: how aware are we of others within the spaces we share? If daily life’s a dance of sorts – everyone skirting round one another to access communal resources – how smoothly does the whole thing go?

Some seem very skilled at it: seeing others coming, reading intentions, anticipating the pinch points of proximity, and accommodating one another with almost effortless grace, respect and recognition. At other times, there’s this sense that “others” are seen as obstacles to be ignored, walked through, or treated as if they shouldn’t be there. As with many things, swinging between the extremes doesn’t seem that uncommon.

It may be a small thing, but isn’t it indicative of our social awareness more generally? If the “concept” of society is one of individuals living together in mutual respect and freedom, how we make room for one another seems the bedrock of that understanding – this basic gesture of granting one another the space we need to live without feeling our presence is a cumbersome irritant to others.

Isn’t society underpinned by this idea of how we’ll live alongside each other? All its conventions or regulations guiding us to interact in ways that embody this philosophy of mutual recognition – expectations of how we will act within our shared physical, social or virtual spaces (Notes Two).

Almost as if society’s an outworking of the premise of individual equality and freedom: the lines between us, in various ways, being where those principles come into play and “demand” we accommodate one another. Maybe the success of this “dance” is the picture of our appreciation of what it’s aiming to achieve?

Notes and References:

Note 1: What does community mean?
Note 1: Having confidence in complex systems
Note 1: Authenticity & writing our own story
Note 1: “Quest for a Moral Compass”
Note 1: The self within society
Note 2: Losing the sense of meaning
Note 2: Social starting points for modern ways
Note 2: Picking up after one another
Note 2: Common sense as a rare & essential quality
Note 2: The power of convention

Ways to share this:

Having confidence in complex systems

How are we supposed to trust in the kinds of complex systems that need us to do so? Like driving, or society itself. How are we to place our lives in the hands of these collective realities and operate on the basis that it’s safe?

It really seems that such systems can only be run on trust, on the idea that everyone appreciates the responsibility they have and the belief that others are placing in them (Notes One). Almost as if trust is taken as a given – a prerequisite for taking part in anything of this nature. Doesn’t society need us to act confidently? To believe in it and uphold our end of this invisible bargain.

Which, in a way, seems strange: this idea that we would trust complete strangers to understand the significance of what we’re engaged in, the risks we’re running, and faith we’re demonstrating in the net of safety such participation effectively casts around us all. Aren’t we placing a great deal of trust in one another? Assuming that everyone’s acting from the same level of awareness, skill and care.

Because, if we’re not, don’t things become rather dangerous? Driving heavy machinery at high speeds seems a momentous responsibility, given how much other lives are at risk if we’re not approaching things with the appropriate amount of seriousness. Expecting anyone to participate in shared systems must depend upon the solemn duty of us all fully realising the importance of our roles and our actions.

Isn’t it amazing that we’re all taking part in things that assume this basic transactional unit of “trust” in every other person? That each of us must understand and appreciate the value of what we’re involved in – how essential it is for community and the very idea of people being able to live alongside one another without constant checks and renegotiations.

Don’t we need to know that everyone around us sees common activities in similar ways? That seems a large part of how education, the media and culture serve to sustain society with collective awareness: this sense of us all being on the same page, taking part in this important conversation, and responding to it along similar lines (Notes Two).

Knowing that we’re right to trust in complex systems seems fundamental to them being a success; doubting seems like it could be almost as dangerous as the thought of them not being trustworthy. Distrusting, don’t we start acting defensively or aggressively? Protecting ourselves from the risks we know are there if these collective agreements fall apart (Notes Three).

There’s not really a point to these musings, just a slight amazement at the idea of engaging with systems based upon trust. It’s such a tenuous thing and, usually, something we’re wise to hand out cautiously and review regularly to ensure we’re not putting ourselves at risk.

That many of the systems surrounding us, on which communal existence depends, assume we can place it in everyone around us seems beautiful – in a strangely risky way.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Trust within modern society
Note 1: Contracts, social or commercial
Note 1: Society as an imposition?
Note 2: Passing on what’s important
Note 2: Powerful responsibility of a media voice
Note 2: Culture as information
Note 3: Picking up after one another
Note 3: Authenticity & writing our own story
Note 3: People, rules & social cohesion

Ways to share this: