There’s something unbalanced about having many strangers knowing your face and voice. The public’s one-sided relationship remains somewhat unsettling when complete strangers walk up to you and begin conversing like you’re old friends. Some people believe they know you better than their actual acquaintances and friends.
I’ve been told anecdotes and family secrets while queued to check out groceries. Because they approach me in a friendly manner, I ask them sociable questions so as to provide some semblance of balance. That means I at least have some information about the people who claim to know plenty about me. This has happened over a few decades so it does not feel as awkward and unsettling as in earlier years. Yet the imbalance feels particularly odd when I run into the same people from time to time.
Regarding my actual life, I keep much of it appropriately private. Confidentiality rules in so far as what close friends and I reveal to our acquaintances and even our families. This creates not only a level of trust, but also an atmosphere of closeness. The subtle nuances of close friendship feel especially precious after encountering members of the public who only know the most superficial facts about you.
As we know, someone’s true character and conduct cannot be discerned by the reply to one question. In fact, it seems that those individuals who are eloquent and fluidly speak are not always trustworthy. This is why one must be on guard about politicians–especially those who espouse our most favored opinions and beliefs. There are other folks who stutter or have problems conveying their thoughts into words. In many cases, the clumsy people are the most forthright. There are many exceptions to these generalizations, but these traits are good starting points in our analyses.
Deeper care and love evolves as we learn and share with another. Such intimate understanding is profound–knowing the other person well enough so as to anticipate their actions and words. When one of the friend-pair is uncomfortable, the other tries to bring assurances and comfort. With this level of love, true solidarity exists.
The problem of knowing and understanding another person well has been a conundrum for scholars, theologians, and regular folks throughout the ages. This is especially true in modern culture due to the instantaneous nature of interpersonal communication. The definition of friendship has been watered down through social media–Facebook Friends are rarely actual flesh and blood friends. Such “friendships” are akin to the superficial acquaintanceships I described in the first paragraph of today’s bluejayblog post.
What is especially problematic these days is the polarization of the populace regarding political and religious opinions. It is popular and lazy to paint one another with a broad brush. We forget that conservative and liberal viewpoints are not necessarily evil. People who believe in other religions or have no religion at all are basically OK people. Life in today’s fast lane with its superficial speed of information-exchange enables ignorance on a vast scale.
Aside from feel-good special interest stories, what we seek out are the faults and weaknesses of others. Society rarely allows for the benefit of a doubt because of generalizations and stereotyping. Such fragmentation and toxicity acts against the unity and interests of our communities. Adversaries exploit these splits in their efforts to conquer nations and subjegate the citizens to tyranny. The tyrants effortlessly decieve their most avid fans and “true believers”. Such credulousness ultimately harms everyone even the tyrant. Without awareness of the deceit, society breaks down amidst discord and chaos. Each group aims to “own” the other.
A natural antidote to this poisonous state is the act of honestly getting to know people from many walks of life. When we allow them to tell their whole stories we gain greater understanding of their concerns and wishes. How did they come to be who they are and what they espouse? Will we begin to love them as fully human and as fellow travelers in this journey we call life? What mysteries can they reveal about ourselves that we keep hidden from our consciousness?
All things considered, the real me is not the person you see but is the person you know. This is universal for everyone.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes author, Nico J. Genes. “How well do we actually know ourselves? Can we dare to say that we really know someone, like really, really know them?”