Eating sweet, juicy blackberries straight off the vine was an unexpected pleasure of last week’s Ice Age Trail segment behind a golf course. Thorns were the downside. Even when I resisted reaching in for another berry, branches blocking the path scratched my bare skin. I could have stayed home to weed, but then I’d have missed the walk. It’s all trade-offs.
Whether a decision is weighty or trivial, personal or global, moral or strategic, every option has pros and cons. Without costs or silver linings, there’s no choice to make. What to do is obvious.
In these contentious times, it can be hard to admit there’s right and wrong on both sides of the issues we debate so hotly. To acknowledge trade-offs doesn’t betray our deep convictions. Instead, it opens us to the humanity of those with whom we disagree. We may find similar pros and cons on their scales and ours. Sometimes we just weigh them differently.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.