I can use this

It’s tempting to dismiss the philosophy of “I can work with this” as a prettied-up version of the more familiar “I can use this”, but in fact the second is the evil twin of the first. And the difference is simple—“I can use this” is self-centered, while “I can work with this” is other-centered.

A quintessential embodiment of “I can use this” is Saul Goodman, late of Breaking Bad and now of Better Call Saul. In nearly any situation Saul encounters, you can see the wheels turning—how can I turn this to my advantage? He is not an idiot—he accepts, rather than insisting—but proceeds to work the situation to his own advantage. (Perhaps the quintessential embodiment of the idiot is Breaking Bad’s Walter White, who knows exactly how things should be, is supremely confident in his ability to make things that way, and rails at length against a universe that refuses to cooperate with his elaborately correct plans.)

In the Michael Lewis article, Father Ephraim exemplifies the good version of the attitude. There is no personal benefit to be gained by even meeting with Lewis, who has entered the monastery under false pretenses (and Ephraim knows it) in order to get information for an article which can be of no help to Ephraim in his efforts, and could quite likely do damage. And yet he does meet with Lewis, presumably because Lewis asked. And he sizes Lewis up—as generously as possible—and proceeds to what he thinks best. For Lewis.

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