The Magic Formula

Without further ado, here it is: Carbu Nores – Leaho Totru Astra.

What a weird magic formula, you might think. And why is there a pause between the second and third words? What is the purpose of this formula (what does it do)? And does it actually work?

I’ll start with the purpose piece: the other day, I randomly came across two videos on YouTube. I am embarrassed to say I didn’t really watch them because I felt they would teach me some important lessons, but they did. Or at least they reminded me of those lessons.

Humans face two fundamental problems — well, probably many more, but I will focus on these two — that evolution has left us with: first, the conundrum between how good it feels to actively care for others on the one hand, and how dismal it feels when we get trapped believing we are responsible for how those others feel on the other.

Second, that to scale human activity beyond people we intimately know, such as family and friends, we must find a way to trust (relative) strangers. And that is such a hard thing to accomplish… The one mechanism we have discovered — the combination of money and markets, making us feel secure enough giving to, receiving from, and forming reciprocal bonds with strangers — starts to feel more and more broken. We see more and more people who seem to abuse that mechanism in unfair ways we cannot even comprehend or do something about.

What I intuitively feel humans really enjoy the most is a process of “self-revelation.” Imagine that you meet someone, and you show this person a part of yourself that is private: something normally only you get to see. And this part is also something that you easily feel self-conscious about. Maybe not embarrassment so much as an emotional vulnerability about the question “will the other person still like me when they know about this part?”

And then the miracle happens: the other person gets to see that part of you, and instead of liking you less, they actually like you even more. In fact, they really are a bit excited about seeing that part of you. What could feel more wonderful than that?

As an aside… I am fairly certain that the excitement and enjoyment coming from the miraculous experience of sensing that another person likes what you reveal is part and parcel of why it is fun to flirt (and subsequently have sex) with strangers. The feeling that another person, who does not know you, would like what you have to offer is simply amazing.

So, what does the Magic Formula — Carbu Nores – Leaho Totru Astra — do? Well, I took the words “Care but no responsibility – Learn how to trust a stranger,” and then cut out some letters. And what the formula can achieve is two things:

For one, it can remind me of these two problems: getting stuck in feeling responsible and feeling so little trust that I am afraid to reveal myself. And for another — at least if I am daring enough to be “silly” — I can try using it as a kind of passphrase with a stranger. I can say to someone “Carbu Nores?” And if the person knows the formula, they can answer “Leaho Totru Astra.”

And while that doesn’t mean it is safe to trust that stranger blindly, it at least means that the person knows about these two problems, and might well be interested in overcoming the limitations imposed by them.

Similarly to how certain declarative speech acts — such as “I declare you husband and wife” — are what creates a certain reality, believing in and living by this formula also has this ability. It is entirely up to you, if you think about it, how much you care about others. And with a little practice, you can learn to feel less responsible for how others feel as a consequence of your care.

It also means that if you have good reasons not to respond to another’s request for your caring, you are not responsible for their disappointment. Instead, if you can trust those people enough to reveal your reasons for not responding the way they request, I hope they can actually learn to enjoy your honesty.

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