Another high school classmate passed away, and the Facebook comments got me thinking… Uh oh.
I didn’t know Tom very well; he was just another of the hundreds of classmates I had that I ‘knew” but didn’t really know, much less be known by them. The remembrances were kind; “he was such a nice guy” etc. I wanted to ask a question there but of course it’s inappropriate. The question I wanted to ask was “How do you remember me?” I asked this of one very early Facebook friend, another who I knew, but didn’t. She replied “you were obnoxious.” I think she meant that in a good way but still.
It has been said – and rightly so – that we are a different person to everyone we meet. And how we see ourselves is probably very different than how we are seen and known even by those closest to us. I doubt that even they really “know” us; we are seen and known through the lenses of the other (refer to Perceptual Predictions for more on this) We know ourselves through the pattern of interpretation and meaning we have accumulated over our lifetimes; we are a product of the stories we tell ourselves and others, and too often those lack congruence.
I wondered, how well do I know those closest to me? My wife, my kids, those special few others? What are the stories they tell themselves about themselves? Are they even aware that they do it? I mentioned this to Minal and she got all excited. I say stuff and she gets excited. Sigh… So of course she said I have to write a book on this, a workbook of sorts to help us identify those internal dialogues and by doing so maybe separate the facts from the fictions, the truth from the propaganda. What I wanted was more than that: I wanted to not only deepen my understanding of those dear ones but also maybe to be better known, better understood by them.
I tried to do this deep dive with someone and I utterly failed. I have written about this experience more than I should I suppose, but it certainly has led to some deeper self-awareness and that’s always a good thing. Temet nosce and all that. I think that if we want to be able to really understand anyone else we have to start with being able to understand ourselves. Not superficially but in a confrontational way, to be deeply honest about the bullshit we spew into our own minds, much less that which we present as ourselves to the world.
This hit me in the face earlier today. A student was inquiring about the “Why would God allow _____ to Happen?” post where I discuss the quantum nature of creation and the rules that God put in place, and the consequences of us not following that first rule. What I could not find within myself was the ability to articulate it clearly. I thought I had but apparently not. I know that what I wrote is accurate, but as Einstein famously said “If you can’t explain it simply you do not understand it well enough.” Or something like that. And clearly, I couldn’t explain it any more clearly than I had so therefore I now judge myself as lacking understanding and thus spouting bullshit again, a trait I do not like and have tried very hard to not engage in. Now I don’t really know if I am bullshitting or if it’s just not a “normal” way of looking at reality, doesn’t fit the standard model of theology and whatnot. Most people don’t think about the weird stuff I do or read the books I do, so my deep self-doubt, self-loathing even, is now exposed. None of it matters (in my oh-so-correct judgment) so therefore it (and I) am useless. Yikes! That ain’t no good is it?
I have every intention of creating the workbook. Although every time I sit down and work on an outline I find myself seeing too many threads, too many rabbit holes to wander down. And I get a headache and thus don’t get anywhere with it. The therapist would raise her eyebrows and wonder why I get a headache when doing what seems to be valuable work…
And of course, as I write in seeming obscurity, I don’t want to ask this question, but I will anyway. Given the book concept I mentioned, how would you dear reader find it valuable? How should I help you connect the dots of the stories and discern between the fact and fiction, the truth and the propaganda?
In the end, one day I hope to leave as some sort of legacy a tool that helps people develop actual depth in their relationships, not only with others but with themselves. I won’t be able to conjure up a bullshit judgment on that one.