Tools and Reason

About once a month, I have dinner with friends I’ll call Jim and Bill. We used to meet at a wine restaurant, but for the past several months we’ve been meeting at Jim’s house where the food is better and the wine is just as good – and significantly cheaper.

Jim has an earthy Midwestern amiability and an almost childlike certainty that he’s welcome wherever he goes. His parents were demonstrative and loving, and he grew up without anger or angst, a happy kid, a happy man and, despite the loss of a wife to cancer after 29 years of marriage, a happy, well-adjusted adult. In short, he is an anomaly.

"You know what your problem is, Jim?" I said as we drove to meet Bill one evening. "You’re normal. The rest of us are dysfunctional in some way or another, but you’re not. You’re normal. You’re the exception that proves the rule."

It’s a trying time for Jim, who occupies a specialized niche in the insurance industry. People up the food chain are trying to get rid of him, but have bungled it badly, and Jim has the paper trail to prove it. While the stress has taken its toll on him, it hasn’t damaged his fundamental goodness.

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