How to Build Bridges

Sep 12 2018

Januarius 1, 379

To my son Aleksandr:

Happy New Year, Sasha. As my carriage crossed the Rosdokios Bridge early this morning, I was reminded of a lecture I received when I was not much older than you are now, still living in the country and under the protection of a pseudonym. My instructor at the time was a man by the name of Gerolf von Bara, a retired advisor to a noble house. He was old and gray and loved to speak in riddles, and I learned a great many lessons from him. We were discussing past alliances, and I was struggling to understand why one side would agree to a deal that I believed placed them at a disadvantage.

“What is more important?” He suddenly asked me. “The destination or the journey required to get there?”

Of course, I wanted to sound smart, so I told him that the destination is more important. “Why?” Because without it, the journey would not be necessary. Therefore, the journey must be of secondary importance. Some might have agreed with me, no?

My instructor, however, did not seem very impressed. He asked me: “If you are an engineer, do you concern yourself with how the bridge is built, or only that it is built?”

Naturally, I saw his point. I told him that if I were an engineer, it would be my responsibility to concern myself with how the bridge is built. I would not want the bridge to be of poor design or to become unsafe for travelers, and I would want to take pride in the work.

My instructor nodded. He then asked me: “And does the farmer who carts his cabbage into town care how the bridge is built, or only that it will hold his weight when it is done?”

Now I was puzzled by this route of discourse. Of course, the farmer does not care about the complicated processes required to build the bridge; he is concerned only that he can make it to market. The details of bridge architecture are irrelevant to him.

Old von Bara smiled one of his knowing smiles. “To make lasting alliances,” he told me, “one must understand the concerns of another as if they were his own. One must have perspective.” He asked me again: “What is more important? The destination or the journey required to get there?”

This time, I knew better. I told him that the answer to that question will always depend on who is asked. “Very good, Master von Nikolaev,” he said. “You are dismissed for today. Now, go and build some bridges.”

Lord bless and guide you,

Your Loving Father

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