Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you

A friend and I were recently talking about friendships and love affairs, and whether you can ever truly know someone.  Oftentimes, when you hear on the news about heinous crimes being committed, there's that neighbor or even the family member who insists that there's no way the perpetrator could have done it - that they knew him and that it was impossible that he or she could have done something so heinous or evil.

But it most cases, they were conspicuously wrong.  People reveal what they want to reveal, and it's never everything.

It always makes me wonder what it even means to know someone.  Is it knowing about them, or knowing things that they've done?  I think that can be part of it, but there are also plenty of people who I think know me fairly well, but who will never know about certain events in my life because I will never tell them to anyone.  But that doesn't mean that they don't know me, have a good sense of me, or appreciate my good qualities and bad qualities.  It doesn't mean they can't predict, to a certain extent, how I will react to or feel about a certain situation, or read me when I'm not being particularly forthcoming.

My mother, for example, can start a conversation with me on the phone in which I will go through the  routine how-are-yous, and without me saying another word, she can immediately tell if there's something wrong or if I'm exuberantly happy or something in between. Of course, you would expect that if anyone knows you, it's going to be your mother.  But that's not the case for everyone.

Is knowing someone knowing how they grew up and what they like or dislike, and how those things shaped them? Knowing their strengths and weaknesses?  Knowing their approach to life?  Having a sense of their soul, if such a thing exists?

It's unanswerable questions like these that kept me from being a philosophy major in college.  I can't stand endless consideration of questions that ultimately have no resolution - it's just mental masturbation to me.  I like answers and certainty, or at least I can appreciate that a question has an answer, even if I don't personally know it.

There was a relatively recent article in the New York Times that someone sent me about an old psychological study in which strangers discussed a series of increasingly personal questions designed to foster closeness by having each person expose their vulnerabilities to the other.  According to the study and its characterization by various articles, going through the 36 questions can make total strangers fall in love, though the skeptic in me calls bullshit on that. 

It's still fascinating, though.  And suggests to me that truly getting to know someone is just a matter of timing, luck, wanting to know them, and making an effort.


  1. I'm so fascinated by this topic because the way I understand life now is that the feeling of love is absolutely the core of my being, my birthright. And yours and everyone's. And so falling in love with someone is really just being in love with the whole wide world in a particular moment. When we let ourselves connect with another human being, we allow ourselves to feel our core, our soul, and that is love. It's just dropping enough about expectations, ideas, identity that our minds are clear enough to feel that love loud and clear. This has been a true relief for me. x JL

    1. I'm not sure my sense of love is as broad and welcoming as yours - I wish it were, but I'm still feeling very guarded and cautious. But I'm open to possibilities, and hopeful for the future.

  2. That questionnaire would make for fascinating dating questions though....