The Flowers of Mistrust – #Silenti

We live, increasingly, in an age of mistrust. It can be seen as cool, savvy, to doubt what we hear–an expectation of deceit in the ‘other’, as though trust belonged to the infant’s playground; something to be outgrown in the face of maturity in the world and in life.

As ‘humanity’, if such a concept is meaningful, we yearn for the true values of early childhood, where we could trust. To have to live in a world of its opposite is foreign to our natures and invokes one of our fundamental shared attributes – fear. Fear teaches us that mistrust is necessary to protect ourselves… and it is, until it comes time to be bigger than both.

Anyone who considers they are on their own spiritual path – and by that I mean simply a journey within themselves for the truth of their lives – encounters this lack of trust, sooner or later. Many, who have been working on themselves for a number of years, need to come up against this – often with the help of true friends, no matter how that looks at the time – before they can see that much of their lives is characterised by a lack of trust.

We build little islands within. We compartmentalise, thereby allowing mistrust to fragment what should be a whole nature…

It’s not as though we don’t have trust in parts of our lives; we have lots of it in family situations; and good, strong families are based on it. Only by showing a child that you trust them can you ever invoke that powerful sense of its loss when they do something that hurts its essential nature. This is an example of how the positive dynamic is so much more powerful than the accretion of the negative. Sadly, societies so often display the opposite.

Sadly – or perhaps, inevitably – politics across the world is increasingly based on lack of trust. The most powerful nations on earth can seem the most paranoid, and yet their civilisations grew from a history of trusted, social achievements.

How did this happen? My personal view is that we, as ‘cells’ of society, have, essentially, three natures. We have ‘the good’ and we have ‘the technology’; and, beneath them both we have the ‘fear’. The ‘good’ is, for the want of a more modern word, the ‘moral’ side of us – the goodness that the church used to address, back when we allowed moral considerations to belong to someone else. The ‘technology’ is the machinery, in all its forms, that we like to surround ourselves with to make life more comfortable and pleasant. The ‘fear’ side of our natures is what keeps the animal part of us alive. Our psychological side – the self that we worship in this age – only persists because of that animal nature’s ability to preserve itself as a base-layer. This is dilemma we face when we look at ourselves, honestly. We can dress it up in fancy terms, but, deep down, that’s what it is…

‘Comfortable and pleasant’ are what the ‘fear’ nature in us strives for. We want to be warm, we want to be clothed and fed, we want to exert ourselves less for more. These are not morally wrong things, they are what happens when the lower levels of our Maslow hierarchy gets a chance to surpass its fear and mistrust.

Two things happen as we rise up this hierarchy of needs: we get more comfortable, which takes us away from the rawness of experience; and we develop technology – and sell it to lots of other fearful people. At the group level, some of the technology removes the other, threatening people, before they can do it to us… Mistrust can be a very effective weapon for the ‘fear’ nature, but it’s by no means a spiritual quality – though it can be a great catalyst…

To cut through any of this requires that we do two things: we need to re-learn the value of the ‘good’. We don’t need religion to do this, though there’s nothing wrong with finding it there. Secondly, we need to believe that we can extend that sense of personal good into our societies; and to do that means we need to be prepared to face the terrible arsenal of technology that has done what all intelligent machines do – protect itself at all costs. At present, there is very little belief that human good can achieve this. But, that is an illusion. ‘There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come’, to quote Victor Hugo.

In a wonderful act of synchronicity, my smartphone has just beeped with an updated message. I’m following a blog about the ‘olden days’ in my home town of Bolton, Lancashire. It was a very working-class place, but it had good aspirations and some very good schools. One of the respondents to the blog has just replied: ‘Yep, that was us… happy days, true neighbourhood – all one big family.’

It was true. Life was poorer, very much poorer, but the neighbourhoods were much closer – often intrusively so. Education and technology have ‘raised’ many of us out of that world – but only in the prosperous western world.

We can’t go back. The kind of nostalgia that so infects the elderly end of some counties’ populations is a useless emotion. But we do need to find a way to believe in goodness, again, and then to trust in its power…

The deeper spiritual journey is marked by a stage where real, inner trust is essential – indeed, is an attribute of the developing soul. And, collectively, that is a fire which will test what we are truly made of…

©️Copyright Stephen Tanham.

5 thoughts on “The Flowers of Mistrust – #Silenti

  1. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in government, media, companies and non-profit organisations is at an all time low. People are turning to alternative media in search of the truth. Is it any wonder that people don’t have trust when those in power use technology as an instrument of propaganda. Even in a work environment, it is so competitive that you can’t trust your colleagues/friends. It is small wonder that people feel the way they do.

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