Trust is a strange thing, isn’t it?
People have been asking me why Mr Smith and I trusted in the people and the practices we did. Why did we trust the medicine men before we’d even met them? Why did we trust in ayahuasca and not in chemotherapy?
What is trust anyway, and what does it mean to trust? With people, we usually confer our trust in proportion to their demonstration of the character traits we think of as trustworthy. We form a mental checklist: do they keep their promises? Can someone we already trust vouch for them? With methods, we might ask, what’s the track record? Are people seeing the results we want?
If those are the necessary conditions for trust, what were we thinking, Mr Smith and I, when we went to the Amazon in search of healing? We trusted people we’d never met, people we knew very little about and practices we’d never tested.
Well, we weren’t really thinking at all, by the time we set off. Somewhere along the line, we’d given up on that. Rational thought had only got us so far: when we thought through all the possibilities presented to us, they led us to places where we really didn’t want to go. So, we stopped thinking and relied more on our intuition instead.
I’ve always felt that thinking is a bit overrated anyway. How many of us have chosen our friends and lovers on that basis? No amount of data or deliberation can settle the things that matter most, and the decisions before us mattered more than most.
So it was intuition and not rational thought that led us into the jungle. It was the same intuition that had brought us together and kept us together. It wasn’t the people we didn’t know or the practices we hadn’t tried that we trusted – it was ourselves. It was our ability to write our story, our way, and before we wrote it, we had to allow ourselves to live it.
We didn’t have much information to base rational judgments on anyway. We didn’t know anyone in our situation who’d done what we went on to do, so there was no precedent to trust in and follow. In any case, there was no-one in the same situation as us – like all human experience, it was unique, and only generalizable up to a point. So, with only our intuition to guide us, we went forth with something of a pioneering spirit. The folks at home, watching and willing us to do well, needed something to trust in too, and thankfully, they trusted in us. They formed a fine team of cheerleaders, and nobody ever invoked a rational argument to question our judgment.
We didn't set out to be trailblazers. We were simply following our own path, trusting in our intuition to guide us along our chosen route. Some of those we met on the path have become very dear to us; others turned out to be people we wouldn’t have trusted had we known them better at the outset.
It’s just as well we didn’t know them better. It’s just as well we didn’t use the standard checklist of trustworthiness before we embarked on this adventure. That might have overridden our intuition and prevented us from trusting in our story. Because it’s the story, and not the characters, that deserves our trust. It’s the trusting in the story and in the living of it that brings us completion in the end.