Knowing Others

I heard the verse being read by a commentator on Public Radio while I was washing the lunch dishes. I quickly dried my hands, then searched Ecosia to make certain to get the quote and citation correct.

“to live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”–Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Mary Oliver

The words touched a hidden place in my mind and triggered intense longing and curiosity. The poetic excerpt made me feel like she was a wizened great aunt who I’d never known. I imagined that a conversation with the poet would be soulful yet intellectually pleasant.

One of life’s most profound problems is to find suitable individuals who jibe with one’s own personality and eagerness to learn. Getting to deeply know people is problematic because we humans tend to shield ourselves from others with façades, and superficialities. We may engage in stimulating conversations and discover what interests other people but that does not mean they follow through and actually act upon their interests. Are they dilettantes or do they have deep knowledge and wisdom culled from research and experience? On the other hand we might observe another person’s actions yet overlook their true abilities and talents.

We can only get to know another on a deeper level by associating with him for an extended period of time. This allows us to examine his character or lack thereof by listening to him talk and watching what he does during unguarded moments. We can infer how much resolve and integrity he has through his displays. Through extended acquaintance with people we get further clues as to whether or not they are compatible with us. We are reminded of these basic relationship skills by personal coaches, psychologists, writers, and vloggers. We hear the advice, but are we willing to diligently follow it? This takes a good level of patience and objective discernment.

We encounter or know of people who embellish their appearances and behaviors. They sell out themselves to the highest bidder or chase after popularity. Such imposters are to be avoided or else we might become distracted by the drama in their rabbit holes. Taking great care in establishing friendships and partnerships yields lasting rewards. This is also true when seeking out mentors and gurus or teachers. The most noteworthy, profound Eastern adepts from antiquity went through ten or 15 years long apprenticeships. Careful scrutiny of others requires more than a few days worth of observation. It takes skill and time to see through an artfully constructed façade. Will this person be a dear, loyal confidant or will he throw you under the bus when the going gets tough? To entrust oneself and well-being to a shallow person is not something a wise person would ever do. True, mutually trustworthy friendship and counsel can only continue when there is total mind to mind and heart to heart communication.

It takes forbearance of will and objective discernment to see beyond pleasant or impressive physical appearances, agreeable partisanship, and flattery. The skills to uncover and truly know people come about through careful, thoughtful listening and physical, evidential observation.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, its Minister of Defence, and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. “With each new day in Africa, a gazelle wakes up knowing he must outrun the fastest lion or perish. At the same time, a lion stirs and stretches, knowing he must outrun the fastest gazelle or starve. It’s no different for the human race. Whether you consider yourself a gazelle or a lion, you have to run faster than others to survive.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, Friendship, philosophy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Knowing Others

  1. rkrontheroad says:

    Thanks for the Mary Oliver quote. I’m a fan of hers but hadn’t read that one.

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