There’s a traitor! And there’s one! There’s another! And so, we focus our attention on some of Shakespeare’s work for a moment:
Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life’s key: be cheque’d for silence,
But never tax’d for speech.
–the Countess (“All’s Well That Ends Well”)
Baffled by my own social complacency, I’ve developed an obligation to reflection, since vacillation isn’t as remote as I thought it was. I’ve mistaken my own satisfactory indifference–a placeholder for the actuality of numbness to calamity–for control. The comfort zone I was in over recent months seems to have raised more insecurities. Once again, to my dismay, I’m constrained by my own excess, but I’ll try not to paint a vivid image of what I’m going through. After all, brevity is the prism through which clarity shines, and I can’t afford more temperament.
I’ve been questioning how easy it is for someone to be fooled by their confidants. I think of every significant political figure I know of, snatching out and examining each one who fell or almost fell due to treason committed by one of their comrades: Julius Caesar (by Brutus), George Washington (almost by Benedict Arnold), Jesus (by Judas), Nero (by Vindex; although, indirectly), et cetra, et cetra, et cetra… Each relationship’s end was attributed to what made up the common ground between the parties involved. Credence was never the largest issue in each pair until there was betrayal.
Bearing those events in mind has done nothing but help me until recently. I’ve learned not to put my heart into the hands of anyone, so I haven’t been vulnerable enough to be totally destroyed in any sense. So far, I’ve managed to dictate my surroundings, socially, and I’ve avoided plenty of problems. You may wonder: well, how do you know if you’ve avoided problems? What if the problems you think you’ve avoided were never possible? My reply to that is that foresight is possible through neutrality. In my philosophy, decisions are made after exhausting neutrality of its resources–or in other words: I try only to act once I’ve mentally played-out the possibilities logically.
One of my favorite philosophers of all time, Machiavelli, wrote something I often recite (it’s part of my favorite chapter in “The Prince”):
…he must be cautious in believing and acting, and must not inspire fear of his own accord, and must proceed in a temperate manner with prudence and humanity, so that too much confidence does not render him incautious, and too much diffidence does not render him intolerant.
Possibly, the most important chunk of that is within the first line, in which Machiavelli proposed that one must act cautiously as he puts his confidence into something.
Time and time again, I’ve done that. I’ve questioned others tirelessly (within reason) in attempts to figure out if they’re on my side or if they’re people I should be strongly wary of. I’d analyze relationships they have with those I consider companions and those I consider enemies, all to construct an idea of how prone to betrayal they are. My suspicion became second nature. I can’t imagine life without this type of paranoia.
With girls I’m about to become intimate with, I try hard to make sure they aren’t leading me on. With guys who attempt to befriend me, I’m the same way, but less heartless because I know that a woman can cause me to fail much easier than a guy can in most cases. My methods for figuring out who’s with me and who isn’t varies, obviously. Generally, I just engage in a series of small tests. The test I most consistently administer goes as follows:
- Tell the person something that would normally seem personal but isn’t.
- Tell the person that it’s something you’re insecure about or don’t want other people to know.
- Wait for your ‘secret’ to get back to you through others. If you see that others treat you differently or in a particular way and it can clearly be paired with your ‘secret,’ the level of suspicion you have towards your subject should rise.
- Repeat. But, make sure you play stupid. The person shouldn’t know they’re being tested.
In my mind is a large web of nodes, and each line between each node represents part of the strength of the relationship between two nodes. Imagine three nodes, Me, A, and E, where Me represents yours truly, A represents a person who wants to be my friend, and E simply represents an enemy. There are segments AE[n], MeE[j], and MeA[i], where n, j, and i each represent a number from 1 to x; x is the number of connections between the nodes in question, so each node pair has a unique number of connections. Thus, AE[n] will describe the connection n between A and E. As an example:
x for AE is 3
We could raise the visual abstraction a bit and imagine each node as they should be: people. Each line connecting each person could be a strand in a rope. The rope, even if it’s 1-strand thick, can represent trust. The strength of trust is dependent upon the amount of strands making up the rope. The more strands, the stronger the bond, the stronger the trust, the stronger the relationship. Simple.
If I examine people this way, ignoring my own biases (religion or lack there of, my past experiences, etc…), I can make a nice assumption about how easily a person might turn on me when my enemy becomes involved.
This has worked for me so far. I’ve managed to stay out of major trouble.
So, I learned that it’s wise to question the strength of my rope initially, while meeting the person, establishing the foundation of our relationship. But, when do I question the rope’s strength down the line? Under which circumstances? My problem lately is that I feel like I’ve gotten too comfortable with my first judgments. The length of time I’ve been comfortable strikes me as an error. Do I start questioning again, now that I realized I’m comfortable? Do I just disregard that comfort and replace it with discomfort? If that’s the case, when can I feel comfortable again?
I just don’t get it.