Time to Take Away the Takeaway

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This weekend I bicycled from Szolnok to Szeged–most of it on the first day, and the remaining 2-3 hours on the second. It was a beautiful trip, with long stretches through fields and forests, where I saw farm animals, deer, rabbits, storks, red pheasants (?), and many trees in bloom. I had originally planned to spend the night in Csongrád, but arriving there at 3:00 in the afternoon, I decided it was too soon to stop, and headed onward to Ópusztaszer, along the Tisza. I made a reservation at a guesthouse there. I was bicycling through fields, on dirt roads, at sunset, and arrived in town shortly after dark. When I came to the guesthouse, the owner said that they were full–but when I explained that I had made a reservation and paid for it, he decided to look more closely into the situation. He took me to another nearby guesthouse, where a room was available, and we sat down at the computer together. Eventually we figured out what had happened; I had made the reservation online, but before checking his email, he had subsequently rented the room to someone else. He and the host of the other guesthouse (perhaps a married couple) apologized for the situation and offered me a room there. I happily accepted; it was a lovely, elegant bedroom with all the comfort I needed for the night. We worked this all out in Hungarian, which is nothing unusual for me now, but still rewarding, given that they were strangers and this situation was new for us all. So the takeaway might have been, “They messed up,” but the reality was far different. I was treated not only to a room, but to their helpfulness and kindness, and their willingness to look into an error.

While I was biking, a few momentous things happened in the U.S.: Robert S. Mueller released his report on his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign; the investigation also considered whether Trump had obstructed justice. While finding no evidence of collusion or conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign, Mueller explicitly refrained from drawing conclusions regarding Trump’s possible obstruction of justice.

Later (after I returned to Szolnok), Attorney General William P. Barr delivered his own summary and concluded, on his own authority, that Trump had not obstructed justice. This quickly turned into a takeaway: Trump trumpeting that he had been EXONERATED (in capital letters). This is yet another time to “take away the takeaway”: Mueller’s hesitation to draw a conclusion should not be so quickly translated into a certainty. This is out of my hands; what happens or does not happen from here will have nothing to do with me. I was about to say, “if there were ever a time to take away the takeaway, it is now,” but that is not true; there are other times, other occasions, every day. How many times do we rush to conclusions that favor or disfavor us–that confirm, in some way, what we want to think? How many times do we take a tenuous statement as absolute truth? Takeaways have their place, but they should not have the final say; they need courageous unrolling. I will write about this again soon in relation to Hamlet.

(Take Away the Takeaway was the working title for my second book, which became Mind over Memes. It is still the title of the first chapter–and of my TEDx talk, and of this blog.)

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The first photo is of Ópusztaszer; the second, of a dirt road near Dóc. If you zoom in on the upper part of the second picture, you can see a jackrabbit on the road. Most of the deer and rabbits were much too fast for the camera, but this one hesitated.

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  1. Third Bike Trip to Csongrád | Take Away the Takeaway

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