Sunday, December 16, 2007


“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

End of August my knees met the scalpel that had been waiting in the wings for several years now. I lost them both to total knee replacements. Undoubtedly I will blather on about this incredible experience for time to time. One of the many hoops I had to jump through on the way to surgery world was a visit to a Princeton cardiologist in order to get the OK so I could endure this three- hour human chop shop procedure.

I had been referred by my surgeon and hence I did not know “heart” doc. As he happens through my medical resume, he notes that I taught philosophy once upon a time. So says he,” I have a question in ethics” which is my beloved field. He explains his problem, mainly a “ guy” concern. Here goes the recap. He asks what is morally wrong if a sport team member plays to win and the team does win but the player also plays in such a way to establish a deliberate point spread, thereby taking money from bettors, those waging on the outcome of the game based on point spreads. After all, “heart” doc notes, the team won. No harm, no foul. Right?

Well says I to myself---“Geez, Doc, if you put a question like that before a group of bearded, sandaled, pipe chomping philosophers, they will be in seminars for years, painstakingly dissecting it down to every possible bit of minutiae conceivable and I have yet to have lunch this afternoon…and did you know they took a pint of blood from me this morning???.”

Putting on my best patient face, I go with the most obvious moral violation. Says I…”Doc, the team player who intentionally manipulates the game, win or lose, is violating the trust his fellow team members place in him to give his very best to the team at all times. Each team member playing the best game is just a given, understood, a collective understanding and rightful expectation the players and the coaches have of one another. If team members are violating the trust the very game itself will breakdown. Players will think if Johnny drops the ball, deliberately fumbles instead of passing it, he gets his point spread but the forward/receiver he should pass it off to does not get to strut his stuff for the next year’s scouting team, even if they win in the end. Here animosity, self- interest and resentment easily enter the game. Intuitively “heart” doc understood that trust is basic to mutual cooperative activity. I got my pass and bolted out the door for lunch.

Trust cements people together and this solidarity brings achievement. I will frequently argue that manners, courtesy, honesty and trust are not fluff we can take or leave at will or dispense with when inconvenient. These virtues are the protective buffers that keep us from slitting each other’s throats.

To thrive, children must trust their parents. Spouses, one another. Patients must trust their surgeons. Team members must trust each other. The faithful must trust their God. Those who trust are vulnerable. Those who are trusted must behave in a way to protect that trust—parents, spouses. surgeons, teammates, God.

The knees are progressing and I am learning to trust them too. My physical therapist says that trust will come in time when I learn they are dependable should I lose balance. When I begin to falter, they will hop to and prop me up, no doubt. Trust develops the same way with people, over time and learning that they will prop you up if you need assistance and begin to falter.

Broken trust like injustice begs for repair and always leaves scars.

Stay tuned.

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