Column: Nothing free

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You scratch our back, and we’ll scratch yours. We all win. So, if we’re completely amenable, why don’t you scratch ours first? Well, that may be a problem. What if there isn’t quite enough time for us to both get an adequate remedy for our itch? Isn’t our need slightly greater than yours? Besides, we promise that we’ll get to you next – at the very least you can go first the next time.

Our intentions are good. We understand that we are better off sharing resources and taking care of each other. But we also know that often there are not enough cookies to go around. We know that there are those who don’t, won’t, or can’t pay back for what they take. And sadly, we know that some of us will lie, cheat and defraud — so much so that over time we can become a bit cynical. After buying lunch three times in a row, we are more inclined to let the check sit on the table waiting for our colleague to find their wallet. After watching the undeserving win over and over again, we begin to wonder when it will be our turn.

In a world of scarce resources, competition is inevitable. Our challenge is to think abundantly while being realistic about the value of our exchange. In a world where all is free, there is free-for-all for all. Our challenge is to remember that there is no free, and that we must constrain ourselves just as we expect to constrain others. In a world where trust is lost, patience goes with it. Our challenge is to trust first, knowing that we will sometimes be betrayed by that generosity. As we reconsider the fundamentals of social order, is it right to expect a promised back scratch to be delivered?


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