Trust

‘“One could tell the story of human civilization as a story of how we learned to trust one another,” (Benjamin) Ho writes. “We learned first to share the spoils of a group hunt instead of hunting and eating (or not eating) alone.” He cites the British evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, who noticed that natural community size for primates seemed directly related to brain size—the greater the relative size of the neocortex, the larger the tribe. For large-brained Homo sapiens, the predicted maximal group size, also called Dunbar’s number, was a hundred and fifty. (The number, Dunbar says, recurs in the estimated average sizes of the Bronze Age communities that built stone circles, of Anglo-Saxon villages listed in the Domesday Book, and of contemporary Facebook communities.) The concept has its critics, but the basic idea—that there are probably capacity constraints on the number of personal connections we can make with our fellow-humans—seems hard to dispute…

E. O. Wilson, the eminent biologist, once remarked that “the real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology.” Digital technology has shredded the putative infallibility of once vaunted institutions: the holiest figures, the grandest politicians, the greatest newspapermen. “Whatever the headlines say, this isn’t the age of distrust—far from it,” (Rachel) Botsman writes. The ambit of trust has merely shifted. “Trust and influence now lie more with individuals than they do with institutions…”

In the end, though, trust isn’t a property that can be measured in the abstract, like some sort of social ether. It characterizes a relationship.’ (from the New Yorker)

As I got on the ferry on Tuedsay, the skies were spectacular. It was warm and humid, and I had started to wonder if it was going to be the one day that it rains in the summer – there always seems to be one. The clouds reminded me rather of the storms that rolled through last summer, whose lightning strikes wreaked fiery havoc in the forests. And then I thought, ‘Every day is a good day.’ I was reminded, in Baizhang’s memorable phrase, that we trust we can find something wonderful in any circumstance, even as other things might be terrible. 

When I read this article later the same day, I enjoyed the reminder of the Dunbar number, as that seemed to fit well with how I feel about sangha, especially as it coalesced around Zen Center. Then I thought, ‘I trust that everyone I meet has the potential to be Buddha, even if their current behaviour is not manifesting that.’


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