July 13th, 2010

confused, buh?

Not such high praise

There's something weird about the general concept in our culture about the concept/phrase "would trust [person] with my life". It's expressed as though it were the highest degree of trust. But I just can't see it that way.

Taken literally, if I trust someone with my life, it needs a context; do I trust them not to murder me in my sleep, or am I relying on them to do something very specific for me that I cannot do for myself? The former is obviously a relatively low bar. While I can't trust that of a complete stranger, I'd like to think that most people wouldn't anyway, and I do indeed trust the majority of my friends not to murder me in my sleep. (Not all of my family, though. But that's a side matter.) So I'd hope it means the latter, or else it really shouldn't be praise at all beyond an acknowledgement of truly basic decency.

So that implies the latter interpretation. So if it's something I can't do myself, this implies I must choose to trust someone to handle it for me. And in that case, it's simple logic; to trust someone with my life implies that "of the people available to me, I believe you are the most likely to be successful in this endeavor, among those people who are not likely to deliberately kill me given the opportunity". The degree of effort, of course, changes the group described in that last part there; if it requires agonizingly effortful sacrifice to barely keep me clinging to life, perhaps that group is small indeed, and perhaps I hope it is empty because I might not want anybody to sacrifice so much on my behalf. If it is a matter of "please do your utmost to pack my parachute correctly", that falls back to basic decency and simple professionalism, and for reasons of the latter is actually a marginally larger group than "people I would trust not to kill me in my sleep".

When you get right down to it, I trust twenty to thirty complete strangers with my life on any given day, given the number of times I cross the street to get to work.

I can't say I've made any references to trusting someone with my life in recent memory, certainly not in a metaphorical high-praise way, and given this, I think I shall continue not to do so.

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