Saturday, April 23, 2011

trust and distrust

A number of years ago the Los Angles Times ran an article that speculated about what Jesus might have looked like. I always admired the imaginative willingness of the effort. The writer consulted with various scientists and archaeologists who were likely to come up with a best-guess scenario. As I recall, the upshot was that Jesus was about five feet, six inches, sinewy and brown. There may have been other details, but I have forgotten them.

Two things stick out in my mind about all this as the Christian celebration of Easter approaches. The first is that Jesus is seldom depicted in my neck of the woods as being anything other than pink. Even in churches with a majority of brown people...still he is pink by depiction. Wouldn't you think the Vatican, one of the most powerful Christian religious institutions, would hold a meeting and point out that the odds of Jesus' being pink were slim to none? Of course most of the men running the Vatican are themselves pink, so maybe that plays a role. Or maybe the fact that pink-dom is where the money that sustains the Vatican is most plentiful plays a role.

Seriously -- think of it: If Jesus had actually been a pink man instead of a brown one, wouldn't he have been like an albino or something ... pretty noticeable in a sea of otherwise brown faces ... noticeable and worth mentioning in one noble text or another?

I don't care much what all the sociological or psychological reasons are for saying or suggesting that a brown man was pink. It's just that if you are going to propagate a fib, wouldn't you be better off telling a less-obviously blatant one? Save your fabrications for the big stuff?

The second thing this brings to mind is what I guess I think is the human leaning to trust. Trust is restful. It is secure. It requires no effort. Children, for example, love their parents no matter how outlandish parental behavior. I remember reading the story of a very young girl who had been beaten to death. News accounts said that even as she was beaten savagely, she cried out, "Mommy, I love you!" ... perhaps as a way of pleading in the most honest terms for the lunacy to stop.

Trust is delicious and makes a visceral and indubitable sort of sense.

On the other hand, distrust, skepticism and the like, require effort. Distrust arouses a willingness to slow down and ask questions. Distrust takes time away from a comfortable and comforting existence -- or even one filled with pressing and depressing events. To distrust means that you might be late to a doctor's appointment or a school play.

This morning, for example, I read an article about Chinese police raiding a Tibetan Buddhist monastery and arresting 300 monks. Several elderly people standing outside the monastery were badly beaten. Two were killed. The BBC, which reported the story, made it plain that it had no way of verifying the statements made by a rights organization. Frictions between the Chinese government and the Tibetan Buddhist community are well-known, so perhaps the story makes a kind of contextual sense. In my country, there are bumper stickers that attest to the trust people put in the wickedness of the Chinese Goliath twisting the arm of the comparatively weak Tibetan peoples, especially Buddhists. For all the polish the Chinese put on their economic and social shoes, there is evidence that they can crack the whip in pretty unpleasant ways when leadership is aroused. They too, like other governments, have been wont to assert their version of Jesus-was-a-pink-man.

Back when news organizations actually gathered news, I can remember reading with surprise a story (also from the L.A. Times) about Tibetan reactions to the 1959 takeover by the Chinese. But this was no knee-jerk article ... not just some oy-vey whine. It asked, at some later date, how the people felt about the Chinese actions. And one farmer -- contrary to the usual delicate but insistent bias of many news stories about Tibet (or perhaps Israel) -- said it wasn't all that bad. "At least we aren't slaves any more."

Trust is restful. God, flag, country, family, employment, success, failure ... the list goes on and on when anyone examines the inner landscape. I simply haven't got the time to doubt every nook and cranny of the world I have created, the world around me, so I choose to trust one thing or another and then, basically, put the matter aside ... until something comes along that challenges my resting place.

Distrust is constantly on the go, exercising its skepticisms like some furious little troll. There is no end to the things that can be distrusted. The skeptic may long for his skepticisms to break out into a field of trust and relief, but the training simply leads him further and further into a well of distrust. And he trusts it.

I'm not so interested in putting a period on this topic -- in making some grand pronouncement that will sooth the lazy or raging beast. What does interest me is what I consider the need to get to the bottom of trust and distrust. Personally ... get to the bottom of it. And this is not something anyone can do for you. It takes some effort and it takes some attention. Is trust necessary? Is distrust necessary? How and why do you trust them? Would it be possible to set both aside and go about your business, using the tools at your command when they were called for?

Stuff happens...check it without limitation is trustworthy, acceding neither to trust nor distrust. Life without limitation is trustworthy. Is there any reason why I shouldn't be the same?


  1. Jesus was a terrorist
    Nuke the whales.
    Trust nobody.
    Limit everything.
    Look hopefully at the sky.

  2. Or this one that's been floating around...

    Go to work,
    Send your kids to school,
    Follow fashion,
    Act normal,
    Walk on the pavement,
    Watch TV,
    Save for your old age,
    Obey the law,
    Repeat after me:
    I am free.

    One might add, "Don't look behind that curtain"!

  3. Or one of my faves:

    Homage to My Father
    By Ray Ronci


    My father said:
    Fuck Father Farrell,
    what does he know, that old bastard!

    Study all the religions. Learn Italian.
    See Venizia, Firenze, talk
    to all kinds of people
    and never, never think you know more
    than someone else! Unless,
    unless they're full of shit.

    And if they are, tell them;
    and if they still don't get it, fuck it,
    there's nothing you can do about it.

    Learn how to bake bread.
    If you can make pasta and bake bread
    you can always feed your family,
    you can always get a job.

    Keep your house clean
    and don't worry what anyone else does.
    Cut your grass,
    prune your fruit trees
    or they'll die on you.

    Don't drink too much
    but don't always be sober --
    it makes you nervous.

    A couple glasses of wine,
    some anisette now and then,
    a cigar never hurt nobody.

    Nervous people always got an ache here,
    an ache there, they get sick,
    they die --

    Look at Father Farrell:
    he'll be dead in a year.

    Fuck him!