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January 23rd, 2006

when diplomacy fails

"You've been tellin' me you're a genius since you were 17, and all the time I've known you I still don't know what you mean"--old Steely Dan song

There's a certain kind of insightful person who fascinates me--someone who seems to "get" and intuit everything, but never makes the choices that go with insight. Not every choice is a "bad" choice, of course--sometimes entirely good choices prove to have worked out poorly. Yet there's this elusive quality to the way some of the brightest people handle some of the most important choices.

They talk a lot about the coyote trickster. But what of the perpetually tricked genius? Perhaps an animal would be in order there, too. Sometimes, diplomacy fails, and one finds oneself merely negotiating with people who are far cleverer than one could ever be. They leave, truce declared, and plunge down the edifice. You hear of their choices across the decades--genius, sadly, at work. Cleverness leads them there. But is cleverness rewarded? Is that squeal on Autumn nights the shriek of the genius self-tricked rabbit?

When Diplomacy Fails