Buying the Bridge Between Reason and Compassion

People trust what they know.  We get used to something, and we trust it to continue being and behaving the same as it has been.  We tend not to think about the fact that nothing on this Earth will be and behave the same forever.

We drive over a bridge, and trust that it will continue to support us.

We fill our cars with petrol, and trust that we will continue to be able to buy as much of it as we can afford.

We hear someone who appears intelligent make a statement, and trust that it is fact.

But we know that every bridge will eventually crumble, we will run out of gasoline, and even the smartest person can make a mistake or lose their faculties to senility.  We are a trusting, gullible people.

Except, we’re not really.  I mean, I know I’m not.  And I’m not sure if I should be ashamed or proud for being so skeptical.  When someone solicits me with anything, my immediate reaction is to think that they are trying to scam me.  When someone says they have a special deal for me, I think they’re trying to rip me off.  When someone asks me for money, I don’t even trust that they actually need it.

But I can’t know.  In the fashion of a true fatalist marksman, all I can do is take aim at what is true as best I can, and know in the back of my mind that my deduction might be totally wrong and my actions irrelevant.  So why does that so often make me a distrusting tightwad?  Shouldn’t the manifestation of this philosophy cause compassion to triumph over caution, when compassion is always good (even if unmerited) and the negative consequences of throwing caution to the wind (with the exception of caution in morality) are existentially irrelevant?

It’s true that bridges don’t fall often, and people can be generally rotten, so perhaps this is just reason prevailing.  But don’t rotten people also deserve compassion?  And how did I suddenly mix up compassion with trust?  It’s as if I would drive over a bridge that I thought had a 50% chance of collapsing just because I thought it deserved a chance, and maybe the bridge wouldn’t be in such disrepair if people just drove over it more often.

Perhaps I simply need to learn how to differentiate between the different consequences of allowing the benefit of the doubt.  At what magnitude of damage does that threshold lie?  And how does one learn such a thing?

And if you tell me, will I believe you?

-Matt

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