Thanks to a tightly edited training montage in the latest action thriller, wherein the good guys GET JACKED! in preparation for conflict, a spark of motivation consumes you. In this moment, when Hollywood magic is gloriously climaxing, hydrogenated-soybean-oil-coated popcorn fingers are blissfully ignored and reality checks remain distant, you will remember how good it feels to be in shape. The mental vows start compiling. No more eating processed foods. Runs 3x weekly. EOD in the gym. Swim 1x weekly. In bed by 22:00 nightly.

By the next morning, dreams of a finely-formed abdomen are overwhelmed by memories of calloused hands, achy legs, and broccoli sandwiches; you have been in shape before and remember the accompanying pain. Suddenly, the motivation that was once so tangible has drifted into the inaccessible ether. And if you are like damn near everyone else, once bereft of that Hollywood juice, the fear of discomfort will now easily triumph over the thrill of possessing a sculpted body.

For all the incessant talk about “echo chambers,” there are, tragically, few words spent grappling with the true cause of free individuals systematically eliminating opposing voices. The oft-cited culprits – social media giants, a polarized electorate, the 24/7 news cycle, etc. – allow us to believe that 2020 is profoundly unique. In some ways this is, indeed, correct, but it’s our base instincts that permit those culprits to register at all. People today, just as all previous iterations of the species, run from pain toward pleasure. This is as true with information as it is with fitness. And it’s true even as the sprint toward instant gratification is done while knowing that a deeper, more sustainable pleasure is to be found on the other side of anguish.

Perhaps it strikes you as a bit dramatic to speak of “anguish” as an emotion felt when ventured outside of “trusted” news sources. If it does, I’d say that reaction is possible because you are doing it right, just as the 05:00 gym junkie doesn’t comprehend the masses’ horror at such a fitness regimen. If you want the truth, you must be willing to read, listen, and watch that which does not immediately connect. This process, especially at first, will summon all sorts of nasty feelings; it will be hard and you’ll want to quit. However, if you commit seriously enough to the discipline, you will understand the world in powerful ways that yield, yes, grand pleasure.

So it is that one of my favorite acts in recent memory is xxxxxxxxx’s decision to read Trump’s book, the proudest possible declaration of, “No sir, I am not everyone else. No sir, I do not flee from discomfort. No sir, I am no holder of a monopoly of truth and always have much to learn.” More important, though, is that this attitude of open-mindedness and interest applies outside of mere politics. Better still, these traits appear to be shared by both of you. There we all were in Malibu, enjoying an extended breakfast poolside on the morning of xxxxxxxxx‘s wedding. The conversation began with some reference to the Lost numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42) and wandered I know not where. I do know that the atmosphere created by you two was one where no matter what insane thing I may well have uttered, it would be treated generously. Which is why it is such a superpower to honestly “understand the other side”: you get the upside of always being able to inch closer to truth while also engendering connection with anyone, anywhere.

Oh, and it probably makes one a pretty good spouse too. Congrats on your first year of marriage, and thanks for including me in the wedding.