Thursday, January 26, 2012


While I was in Rome and waiting for dinnertime, I found myself watching a feature on Italian TV about a nature reserve in the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia. During the show I heard an interesting statement. A father and his son have permits to enter the reserve for the purposes of photography, and the only way to get to one particular part of the grounds is by horseback. The boy (perhaps 12) was talking  through an interpreter about two horses: one was his favorite—he could do anything, he said, with that horse. The other, the boy said, was too young a stallion; he wouldn’t let the boy near him or touch him.

What is the difference between these two horses? I think the answer is a relationship of trust built on experience—or not. Yet there is a problem: if the other horse will never let itself be touched, can trust between it and the boy ever be established? I am always presuming, of course, that the boy has nothing but the highest intentions—as he surely has with his favorite horse…

This seems to me to have a direct bearing on relationships between humans, as well. How is trust established, other than making a choice to trust? One sees and feels the signals of honesty, regard, warmth, high intentions in general terms at the beginning. Then one makes a choice to be vulnerable; when the honesty, warmth, regard and high intentions are reinforced, one makes further choices to trust. Honesty leads to trust; trust then can lead to love. And the bonds grower ever stronger, so long as the trust remains unbroken by dishonesty.

In a somewhat different way, this is the theme of a short story by William Trevor that I recently read: “A Friendship.” Unfortunately, it is about dishonesty as a betrayal of trust that permanently damages more than one relationship.

It happens. But it doesn’t have to happen. In William Saroyan’s play The Time of Your Life, Joe tells Kitty: “I have only the noblest of thoughts for both your person, and your spirit.” An honest and mutual meaning of that, one to another, and having it believed by both the others, is really the secret to trust growing into love.

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