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by on April 29, 2022


by Marco M. Pardi

Trust, v. To lay oneself open to deception.” Victor I. Cahn. The Disrespectful Dictionary.

Trust in God but tie your camel”. Arab saying.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

That he was being watched was not surprising. But Tonio had to wonder if the interest was simply routine to detect something or focused to confirm something. If the former, no problem. If the latter, big problem. His assigned interpreter, Kamran, a graduate student at Azerbaijan University of Languages in Baku and undoubtedly an officer in the Dövlət Təhlükəsizlik Xidməti, or State Security Service, came alongside him, smiling as always.

Tonio moved so he could quickly examine the two men who had entered with his mark. Over Kamran’s shoulder he noted these were not the usual types, stacks of muscle topped by a solid round bone; they were lean and built as if from braided steel, one staying near the mark while the other circulated to be ready to respond from an unexpected direction. Professionals. He could not determine their ages in years, but their faces indicated they had lived every day of them.

As he circulated among the guests, drinking his tonic water and lime, smiling and speaking through Kamran, he reviewed the possibilities. To his knowledge only three senior executives knew of the existence of the – maybe – five other specialists and two of those executives refused any and all knowledge of the identities and specific actions of the unit. Plausible deniability. The department which created his legend, complete with rudimentary family tree, birth certificate, schooling, and passport knew nothing about him. They simply erected a phantom. That left only the one executive as a source of a possible leak. Yet, he had known that man for years, and had been personally recruited by him. “You’re like a brother to me, Tonio. But if the order comes I’d kill you in a heartbeat.” Never. No, NEVER trust anyone completely.

Trust is such an amorphous concept. It can be applied to the intangible, the ethereal, such as Fate, the future. Or, it can be applied to the very specific, the minuscule stent placed in a coronary artery. A miscalculation in either case may yield a result with no second chances. When you drive onto the highway at night do you trust in Fate, or in your brake pads? Will you see in time that oncoming wrong-way driver with his headlights out? Speaking of which, I, like so many other children at the time, heard the advice to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Bible. Proverbs 3:5-6. God the traffic cop. We can only hope that also applies to the other guy.

We go to bed at night and let ourselves fall asleep, trusting that we will wake up. Remember that comforting little child’s prayer, “….if I should die before I wake…”? Pleasant dreams.

Apparently trust can be applied fully, partially, or conditionally. Ronald Reagan enshrined this when he confronted the leader of the then Soviet Union and repeatedly said “Trust, but verify” An untold number of Americans seem to still think he dreamed that up. I was amused at the time, when it seemed he was throwing an old Russian proverb, “doveryai, no proveryai”, back at a Russian.

Of course, there can be times when you find yourself working for someone you do not trust at all. It’s possible to do this so long as you remember the saying, le plus on leur baise le cul, le plus ils nous chient sur la tete.

It is interesting to inventory the various things, events, and people we place some degree of trust in every day, and night. Recently I read a column in which a woman was gushing about how her enormous boa constrictor liked to stretch out next to her on the bed at night and sleep. She was so thrilled by its love. A herpetologist responded that it more likely was measuring her for a meal.

I get that physics informs us we humans are 99.99999% empty space (I can think of some that exceed even that) and that even the hardest substance known to us is composed of sub-atomic particles/waves that are further apart relative to their size than the stars in the visible universe. But I still trust that when I sit on a chair I won’t fall through.

So we live in a constellation of trusts, stronger with some, lesser with others, like a multitude of rubber bands of varying strength. I read of a race car driver who said he felt safer on the track than on the road; “At least we’re all driving in the same direction.” But how long do we maintain that uniform direction when in a relationship? Did we initially state and agree upon what we thought was our ultimate destination? Did we factor in side trips along the way? Over the years I’ve known several married couples. A few long term couples are still in their first marriage. Do they seem unusual? Then again there are those couples in which one or both cited marital infidelity as causing the break up of their previous marriage. Yeah, that would be a deal breaker for me, too, either way. And I would be up front about it. Still, how much of our autonomy do we surrender on entering a relationship? And what happens if, during a relationship, we discover we truly want more autonomy? Some of us may have had careers which put potential partners at risk, even severe risk. Do we add that as a footnote to the marriage proposal? *Oh, by the way……that ’til death do us part bit……

Some trust relationships have term limits. We call these “political office”. We agree to place a person in a position of power for a period of time on the condition that they basically maintain the direction we found them in when they gained our trust. But as they ascend to higher and more complicated positions of power are they there on the basis of our trust or on the basis of our ignorance?

In the late 1970’s a B movie actor named Ronald Reagan went from Governor of California to President of the United States largely on a trust winning grandfatherly “Heh, heh” and “There you go again”. He spoke glowingly of America as a “shining city on a hill”. Yet, when he got to Capitol Hill his regime canceled the CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System), a government function, and replaced it with FERS (Federal Employee Retirement System) outsourced to Wall Street. Under his political party protective regulations were rolled back across the board and a doctrine called Citizens United was put in place. This essentially allowed the companies which had benefited enormously from federal retirement money pouring into them largely unfettered ability to repay the favor with enormous contributions to the elections of his political party, ensuring that these companies would continue to benefit long into the future, enriching their stockholders along the way. In short, Reagan’s shining city on a hill was a Potemkin Village built on the architecture of pure and fundamental Fascism. This same political party has devised efforts to do the same with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid: Privatize and deregulate.

Not long after the dissolution of the Soviet Union a rising star named Vladimir Putin came to power. An astute student of the United States during his KGB career he copied the strategy of privatizing and deregulating industries and utilities which had been State owned. (I wonder where he got that idea) He and his friends and supporters thus “purchased” these for pennies on the dollar, and siphoned off earnings calculated presently at one trillion dollars. They sheltered their plunder in foreign registered mega-yachts, mansions, and commercial property in other countries. Today we call these people the Oligarchs. What’s interesting is the sparse discussion of these people, and this strategy, in U.S. media. Is there someone here we shouldn’t be trusting? Or are we too busy “streaming” inane television programs?

Most recently, in the run-up to the 2020 Presidential election, this party, fearful that competent voters would avail themselves of Mail-In voting during a deadly pandemic, replaced the Director of the Post Office with a crony who promised to disrupt, delay, and disorganize postal delivery, thereby ensuring that mail-in ballots would arrive too late if they arrived at all. The long term plan, publicly approved by many in that particular political party, was to so erode trust in “the government” that the public would overwhelmingly approve of the privatization and deregulation of the U.S. Postal Service. And the friend of the then President, the crony he put in charge, was first in line to make the purchase. Did it still make sense to use terms such as Russian President and American President when there was no daylight between them?

Having trust in someone or something is certainly comforting. Feeling able to express feelings and concerns openly is a large part of that. Years ago a private four year college asked me to teach some courses in Marriage and the Family. I did so. During the semester we examined marriage from several angles, including the preparatory stage. I discussed the merits of Pre-Nuptial Agreements. These commonly stipulate “who gets what” in the event of a divorce. In each class several students expressed disapproval, their reasoning being that such a concept diluted the romance of the upcoming marriage. So let’s look at this.

If you and your partner to be are strict adherents to a “’til death do us part” group, and you are convinced you both will follow this no matter what may happen, this may not apply. But that pledged was formed when life expectancy was very much lower and opportunities for meeting others and communicating were far fewer. Saying at 20 that you know what your life will be like at 40 is foolish at best. Many people now marry in their twenties and early thirties, with a longer life expectancy and greatly enhanced mobility and social contacts. So, the likelihood of circumstances threatening the continuation of the marriage is greatly increased. Such a commitment, ’til death do us part, thus speaks of what may be the greatest act of trust a person may engage in: trust of the partner, and trust of the self. Divorce statistics indicate that trust is misplaced. Add to that the number of people who remain together “for the sake of the children”, for financial reasons, for social/religious reasons, or just a fear of living alone.

A common perception of a “Pre-Nup” is that it is an instrument of denial, denying the spouse of certain assets and other valuables. In fact, jointly written, it is an instrument of entitlement, committing to contract certain assets and other valuables. Divorce attorneys are on the hourly clock. A hassle over who gets the $1,000 85” flat screen (now depreciated to $300) quickly turns that flat screen into a two or three thousand dollar booby prize. Thus, the Pre-Nup serves as the basis for a final settlement, avoiding possibly many thousands in unnecessary negotiations. Couples may lump items in categories or may itemize them. I know a couple with a 17 page, single spaced Pre-Nup. That’s probably a bit much.

Summer’s coming on, and people will be flocking to the beautiful beaches around the world. Having SCUBA dived off some of these coasts I can tell you of the municipal sanitary sewage pipes running out offshore beneath those picturesque waters. One place put me in mind of Astrud Gilberto’s famous song, but I modified the lyrics: ……the girl from Treponema goes walking, and when she walks you gasp at how thin she is….

Well, all this talk about trust has me wondering if you trust this site. One thing you will not hear me say, or read from me, is: Trust Me.

  1. mkdohle permalink

    When I meet someone new, I guess there is a certain level of trust that I give. If someone approaches me and is pushy, and demanding, then my trust level is ‘nil’. Hard-core salespeople are not trustworthy at all I believe. As for politicians, well I am probably guilty of stereotyping, but would not trust them as far as I could throw them. Now that I am old, that is not far at all.,

    Trust is a choice, and between humans, I feel that it has to be earned if it is to go very deep.

    I believe that trust in God is different. It is a choice that can be made even in times of deep suffering, chaos, and disappointment. I have found that trust is never in vain.

    When people come for help, I know that there is a chance that they are conning me, but if I have a doubt, I help them. People can use that as an excuse not to help anyone.

    Putin is not finished yet, and I fear that we will suffer because of that. So that answered how deep my trust goes in him.



    • Thank you, Mark. I do agree that trust in something “greater than the self” is a powerful comfort, whether that something is personalized as in a God or impersonalized as in Fate. But – you know me – I do wonder if, for some people, that is a way of dodging responsibility for one’s actions or inactions. And to complicate that further, I hear people take the credit for a good outcome and then turn around and excuse a bad outcome with something like “It was the will of God” or “It was fated to be”. I always say, If you are willing to take the credit you better be willing to take the blame.

      I also agree about politicians. The campaign ads are scary because I strongly suspect there are people out there who actually believe them, and who therefore have the potential to affect my life through their vote. That is NOT comfortable.

      Yeah, I’m a few years older than you and I’ve been wondering how far I could throw someone.


      • mkdohle permalink

        If I can’t take responsibility for my actions, I can’t be trusted. We have to face everything we do, and I do trust in that.

        Trust in God is not based on outcomes, but in the meaning of life, that all that happens can be redeemed even if at the time understanding is nil, or limited. I do not have the brains nor the desire to actually think I can figure everything out. I am comfortable with ‘unknowing’.



        • That is an interesting point. So much of what we think we know is assumptions we have no way of proving.


  2. As you know, I have been listening to Alan Watt’s lectures on YouTube for some years now. Two lectures that stand out to me regarding trust are when he speaks about trusting in the universe, and the other is not directly related to trust, but reminds of the same concept, the Taoist way. Trusting in the universe is the common theme I see. I have indeed let go of certain aspects in my life and said, let them fall where they may; I am tired of trying to control. At times, the outcomes are good, and other times they are bad, but I suppose even the bad times, when analyzed closely, indeed end up being the best outcomes that could have come from a horrible situation. When I let go too much, I then think of the Middle Path, and I ask myself if I let go too much and I need to find my balance. In the end, I know the truth is, surprisingly, as I heard in a country song once, “All I really need to do is live and die.” But to do that, I mean to truly do that, I suppose we need to trust in ourselves.


    • Thank you, Anomoly. Yes, Alan was an outstanding teacher, though some thought he had a streak of nihilist in him. You probably know he died while writing his manuscript for TAO: The Watercourse Way. It explains the theme you developed in your comment.

      What I find interesting is that when we realize we ultimately have only ourselves to trust we look more deeply and find “self” is not at all limited to the bag of meat we walk around in. In effect, we go through self, without losing it, and find ourselves in Allness. Or, ATONCENESS if you like.


  3. Ray Rivers permalink

    Thought provoking – I love it. But not convinced that pre-nups are such a good idea for a union where both declare not till death do we part.


    • Thank you, Ray. I did suggest that the pre-nup might not be of interest to those so committed. But I do maintain that a person who, at 20, thinks they know who they will be at 40 is foolish.


  4. Dana permalink

    Marco, I’m always so happy for another post and I’m settling in to read it again for the fourth time. You’ve probably heard, “A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou.; ” well, It’s pot of tea, a slice of toast and thou (and Tonio).

    Of course I’m curious about Tonio’s marks. Undoubtedly they were not necessarily the sort of humans we want operating in this world. I also wonder if Tonio was ever lonely, probably having so few (if any) people he could even remotely trust as friends.

    I’m glad I have a few of those, although I think it is probably unfair to entrust then with just anything. I don’t think our friends, family, and even romantic partners want to know everything about us.

    I would imagine there have been some who might assume I fully trust them because I’m such an “open book.” But I don’t have a deep level of trust in most cases. I simply lack a filter.

    This especially applies to work teammates who have always known too much about me. Whatever filter I strive to put in place seems to disappear. But I’ve also found sharing something about myself often has someone open up their “vault” to share information with me. Funny how that “trust” works. I don’t want that to happen. It just does.

    One of my long-term romantic partners had a phrase they often asserted to me, “Trust no one but yourself.” At least they were granting me that opportunity from the onset. It does make sense, even though at the time it seemed harsh.

    I think prenuptial agreements are a wise idea, and wish I’d had them. Most of my life has been spent in flight or fight mode.
    Mostly flight. I simply walk away, even when the outcome is going to be detrimental to me financially. There was infidelity at least twice, but since I feel monogamy is unrealistic, I wasn’t surprised. I don’t trust anyone to be *that* loyal to me. Of course they could have just remained single.

    There are those who carry a level of “trustworthiness” even if we should never fully trust anyone for our sake or theirs. You are definitely among the most trustworthy and conscientious people I’ve ever known. I feel very fortunate.


  5. Thank you, Dana. Yes, Tonio’s marks were uniformly people to be removed for the greater good, though he sometimes had to remind himself not to make things personal. And, yes, there were moments of loneliness, of realizing he never “fit in” anywhere. But he had a very limited need to confide, and though he did so with the one woman he felt he had been with all his life she sometime later unexpectedly died. He did have a very close brush with death, among many, (he eliminated two teams sent to kill him) and later learned he had been targeted by a group he had penetrated because he had not “shared enough about himself”; no one felt they “knew him”.

    I certainly agree with you that people neither need nor want to know absolutely everything about us. When I have been pressed I responded with, “Everyone is entitled to a degree of privacy.” And, when people are telling me about themselves I try to be careful because what they are saying is, of course, their own perspective. I do not want to seem like I am always agreeing with that perspective when it starts to wander beyond objective facts.

    Thank you for your kind words. Your candor certainly inspires trust.


  6. Dana permalink

    I learn so much from you, and your reply is helpful. It is often difficult for me to remain objective when others tell me about themselves. It’s been suggested this propensity is an effort to be “liked” or being a “people pleaser.” As a survivor of childhood domestic violence that might be true. Those may also be factors, as well as abandonment in another country at fourteen years old. Most of all I hate to think I’ve hurt someone’s feelings, although I’m certainly not immune to that. Yet agreeing when I actually oppose a perspective isn’t helpful to anyone.

    The same might apply to uncomfortable laughter at a joke I either don’t “get,” don’t find humorous, or find distasteful. I need time to process human connections, and that’s why writing is better for me than too much spoken conversation. Face-to-face socialization has so many challenges and nuances. I suppose I’m also too agreeable at times in an effort to gain someone’s trust for various reasons that are always well-intended. Later on I realize I wasn’t being sincere.

    Perhaps some of the uncomfortable agreeableness stems from the paranoid environment at New Bethany home where I was forced into being a “watcher” of new girls, and sometimes ones deemed “rebellious.” Naturally they were nothing of the sort; they were all severely traumatized as I was. Interestingly enough, I was the exact opposite of someone they wanted for that job, but reflecting on this, perhaps it helped both me and those entrusted to me. I played the game to conform, and used whatever tactics I could think of to protect others. Still can’t determine why I was chosen for that role. Must have been some really great acting! I probably should have left there and taken off for L.A. Yet with the girls it must have worked, because nearly twenty years later I found out a few remembered me for those qualities. One girl was nine years old when we picked her up In Albuquerque, NM. I have zero recollection of her, so clearly I blocked it out. As an adult she remembered things about me I had forgotten. But outside of that, today I would rather remain silent than agree when I shouldn’t.

    There are two songs I would include in the “soundtrack” of Tonio’s life with Maartje, from what you have shared. One is Josh Groban’s “Remember” (with Tanja Tzarovska, a Macedonian singer). When I listen to Tanja’s Byzantine vocals, I always picture Tonio off in the desert somewhere. The other is “I’ll Never Love Again” (Lady Gaga from “A Star is Born.” It seems doubtful his career allowed for just any confidante or romantic partner. That he found this in her seems a rarity. And perhaps doubtful to have that more than once in a lifetime. I’m only guessing, and perhaps shouldn’t. How befitting the title from another post you wrote about him, “The Untold Stories of Tonio.”


    • Thank you, Dana. You have shown remarkable courage in coming as far as you have.

      You are right about Tonio.


  7. “Inshallah”; the will of God in Arabic. “It is what it is”; my personal version of releasing power to the Universe over those things of which I have no control.

    The subject is trust; complicated at best. The first place I ever worked had a sign above the cash register, “In God we trust, all others pay cash.” It’s hard to place trust in anyone else when you realize that, in the deepest sense, we cannot even trust ourselves.

    As a child, I wore the “mask” that those around me seemed to need in an effort to be accepted among them; even then this was done with limited success. I have since developed the attitude that if someone doesn’t like me as I am, that’s just rough, because I won’t like who I have to become to change that. I’d rather be alone than accepted on the basis of a falsehood. Even with that, I am guilty of occasionally conceded a point of which I am not fully convinced for the benefit of peace.

    I was a teenager fresh out of High School when I married my husband, nearly 49 years ago now. I whole heartedly agree with the point made that we couldn’t have known at that young age how much we would both change with the passing of years. If I had it to do over again, assuming I would, I think a pre-nup would be a very wise move. It’s not about trusting your relationship to last, but in a world where more than half of marriages end in divorce, it just makes sense. It’s a bit late for that now, but my children have taken care of that by deciding amongst themselves who will get what when we are both gone.

    I do basically trust most of the people I know until they give me a reason to revise that opinion. I can count my true friends, those I feel I can trust almost completely, on the fingers of one hand. I have let people into my home and my life who have used me, and even stolen from me, not just money, but things which really matter. I sigh and live without those things which were of monetary value; it’s the trust they stole along with them which ultimately had the greatest value of all.


  8. Thank you, Rose. It is always saddening to read of violated trust. I think that’s because trust, for some of us, is a really meaningful investment. So, there’s no point in trying to counter advice from someone to just chalk it up as a lesson learned. I think most people trust too easily.


  9. Tamila Kianfard permalink

    As usual, you have highlighted so many things and answered so many questions I didn’t even know I had.

    Funny enough, I was thinking about Pinocchio (so random) the other day, I wondered what would have sparked in the imagination of someone to create the notion of a growing nose when a lie is told. I never really unpacked that one, and still haven’t if we are being honest… As the universe would have it, of course, here I am today reading a wonderfully written piece that would tie this in by someone I hold in the highest regard…

    Here is what I have realized. Trust, in this day and age, can really only go as far as the eyes can see… which made me realize… Pinocchio’s nose growing, to me, is symbolic because the farther his nose got from his face, the bigger the lie, and the less he could see. In my opinion, trust can work in the same way— the farther it has to go, the harder it is to see, and the more it becomes almost impossible to see and grasp.

    Blind trust is even worse in my opinion— like cutting off your nose in spite of your face.

    News outlets, for example: Once upon a time, people blindly turned to their news outlets for information, now they turn to it, rather openly, for bias. And to add another dimension of chaos here— we have lost trust in ourselves and our abilities to come up with decisions and thoughts based on what we see or think. We have given away the trust in ourselves, completely, for the sake of trusting and therefore following the herd.

    I want to trust people, and I’m inclined to do so. But it as not always served me. Now I try to live by this notion of:
    If you feel you must trust, trust your gut.


    • Thank you, Tamila. I think that’s a remarkable way of visualizing trust and deceit. I had not thought of that and now it makes perfect sense. I took the image a little further and felt that as the nose got larger and more difficult to see around or through it became more real for Pinocchio, thereby causing him to believe in his own lie. What a marvelous and succinct concept.

      Yes, I recently read that networks began broadcasting the news at a financial loss because they felt it was a public service. But, needing to stem their losses they began to turn the news into entertainment and confirmation of the viewers’ biases. And here we are today. So, as the gradual merging of physics and psychology is suggesting, we create what we see, like seeing images in clouds – or cheese sandwiches.


      • Tamila Kianfard permalink

        I am so grateful for this platform. I am so grateful for these extremely probing topics. Thank you for taking it a step further, because you are so right. The farther Pinocchio’s nose got the more he believed his own lie. Distance creates such ease to do things and say things that are less acceptable without the fear of repercussions or resentment. Fascinating.

        Also, what is more fascinating is that I’ve never thought about it in that way, we see what we want in the clouds and cheese sandwiches. I really thought I was alone in finding shapes in cheese sandwiches. The shape I always use to see was the outline of my mother’s country of Iran.
        However, one of my favorite places to seek shapes are out in nature. Especially in the rocks and the trees.

        In South Africa, my housemates and I visited and camped a fantastically beautiful campground in Cederberg. There, I was the head of finding animals in the rocks… this is coming full circle now… I remember spotting the most perfect shape of a hippo in the rocks… and I was so fixed on how perfect it was, instead of asking “do you see the hippo?” I would ask “what do you see right there?” Pointing in the direction of what I saw,In hopes that they would come to the same conclusion on their own. And to my excitement— they always did. Even the most dismissive of my housemates could not deny the hippo in the rocks. This is incredible when you think about it in this context, how do we sometimes all see the same thing but no one can quite explain it? One of the many fabulous mysteries of life.


        • And we are so glad you are here, Tamila. I know that, given your travel experience, cultural understanding, and positions in international relations, several of our readers would like to read your impression of the current Iranian situation especially as it is related to Syria and to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Perhaps a good subject for a post.


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