When We Say We Know People, We Really Just Know the Outline

images (4)Just imagine what it would be like to really, truly know someone: to understand what makes a person tick, to recognize another’s strengths and foibles, to walk around in someone else’s skin. Well, the more I think about this, the more horrifying the idea becomes. In many ways I hardly know myself as I discover secrets and mental meanderings, hidden talents and special weaknesses each minute of the day. Every moment is an adventure as I learn and discover something new about my internal tickings, I cannot envision the psychological overload that would come with knowing someone one else in a 100% capacity. And thus the proposal that we really just know an outline of another person, but why is this so?

First, every experience every day is unique to the individual. Two friends may be at the same place at the same time to observe an event, but each will interpret the sight based on personal outlook, experience, and interpretation. This is one way to explain how two children born into the same family, with the same parents and genetic background can be so different in looks, behavior, attitude, physical ability, and every other aspect of being human. Even identical twins that are said to have a special interconnectedness that surpasses explanation are different in subtle ways. They have genetic make-up that matches but emotional and internal make-up that resonates in an individual way.

Second, life guides us in a variety of directions and thus into a assortment of viewpoints when surveying a scene or making a critical decision. Our perceptions vary and so do our points-of-view. Even people who appear to agree on everything select different courses and paths from time to time and perhaps very often. Lock-step life would be pretty dull and unadventurous. I don’t think that perfect synchrony would lead to happiness because I do believe that diversity adds zest and joy.

A third factor that does not allow us to truly know another is that we are not in control, other than if the friend is robotic or an automaton. I can barely control my own thoughts and emotions and so I cannot even picture being the domineering force over someone else. I guess the closest I have come to this is in childrearing, however, even that has many twists and turns that do not permit me to truly know my children. I have offered guidance and supervision, my viewpoint and ideology, and I have tried to set a positive example in my attitude and in my behavior, but then it is up to them to use, apply, and discard as suits their individual wants and needs.

Even though we may purport to know people, when it comes to the deep-down soul searching for understanding, we really just know the outline. I know my co-workers at work but I do not know them in their homes. I know my spouse when we are together but I do not know every aspect of his thinking even then and after 40+ years and I cannot precisely determine his thoughts, actions, or reactions. I know my children, but then again I do not and the same holds true for family and friends. But I rather like the outline visualization because it adds magic and wonder to relationships. Change and adjustment are excellent tools for maintaining brainpower and so I am thrilled at the prospect of getting to know others better, but never in a total capacity.

 

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