Knowing People

Would you recognize your friends without their bodies? If you were talking to someone on the phone, and it was one of your friends, would you still recognize them even if their voice did not sound the same? When receiving an email from a friend, if they use a different email address and do not sign, would you still know who it is?

Sometimes I think that very few people know each other, even if they have been friends or living together for years. They recognize one another by the look, sound and smell. If they are long distance or internet friends, they know how the other person sounds, writes or uses language.

One way we can recognize other people is by their word choices and their verbal idiosyncracies. But keep in mind that you know only how someone talks to you. If they use a completely different language to talk to other people, would you still recognize them in their other language?

How well can people who come from different cultures ever get to know each other? If there are things you can only say in your native language, and a friend does not speak that language, how can you share yourself?

Is there more to people than the way they look, sound , smell or express themselves? If so, what is it?

Would you recognize your friends without their bodies? If you were talking to someone on the phone, and it was one of your friends, would you still recognize them even if their voice did not sound the same? When receiving an email from a friend, if they use a different email address and do not sign, would you still know who it is?

Literature that Deals with Knowing Others

Two literary works whose main subject is who we are and whether people really know us are Cyrano de Bergerac and Who is Julia.  Each one has a plot that tackles the issue through a gimmick. In the play by Rostand, the gimmick is one man writing dialogue for another man. Roxane was captivated by the eloquence of Cyrano, but only when his words were spoken by a better looking man. Which man does she love? Does she actually know either of them?

But what if in the real world it’s the same man who is eloquent on paper or in texts, but turns tongue tied and bashful in person? Which one of the two men is the real one? And what if they both are? And what if he behaves completely differently with other people? And what if he’s bold and daring, but only when he speaks Armenian?

A lot of people think that communicating in verse like Cyrano is false and stilted. But what if someone feels more comfortable expressing himself in heroic couplets than any other way? The deceased poet, FL Light, used to leave comments in verse on my online articles.

Dictums of sustenance and diet in true

Perception would leave sugar out of view.

That’s a comment that he left several years ago on my article Candy from Strangers. Was this the real FL Light or just his poetic voice? If we had met, would he be speaking in couplets all the time, or would I learn that he had a thick Bronx accent and a modern American English syntax and vocabulary  in everyday life? I have often wondered about this, and now that he is dead, I keep thinking about that. Did I ever know him?

In  Who is Julia?  the gimmick is more modern. A rich and beautiful woman’s brain is transplanted into another, more ordinary woman’s body. But the husband of the woman who used to occupy that body thinks he married the body. Even though he knows about the transplant, he still can’t let that body go.

Many people form genuine attachments to bodies, even less than perfect ones, while being unable to know the minds that occupy them.

Knowing and Recognizing People is Like Reading a Book

In Ping & the Snirkelly People, Ping realizes that her friend Olivia will never come to know her in the way that Ping has come to know Olivia. That is partly because there is more to know about Ping and partly because Ping has been immersed in Olivia’s culture for a whole year, while Olivia has had no contact with Ping’s culture.

There is no implied reciprocity in getting to know another person. Just because they got to know you, it does not mean that you got to know them. Even though you may know them very well, they may never know you.

Some adults who are considered to be perfectly normal will never understand this. Some children on the autistic spectrum already know it. Being normal does not make people’s self knowledge particularly profound. When things work perfectly for you in all social interactions, you are never required to think about it.

Vacuum County — Order Here

Would you consider doing research in a library in order to get to know another person? Would you stay up nights reading old histories in languages you haven’t entirely mastered, the way Verity did in Vacuum County when she was trying to understand Nabal? Or would you just ask hackneyed questions like: “What’s your favorite color? What kind of movies do you like to watch? Pizza or tacos? Coke or Pepsi? Baseball or hockey? Democrat or Republican? Protestant or Catholic?” Do you honestly think you can get to know somebody by asking him about things that are entirely beside the point for him?

Not everybody is an open book, but many of us actually are, if you will bother to crack the cover and see what is inside. It’s not on our body that the information is hidden, though. But it’s all there in a book or two, if you have the time and the patience. And if you can’t or won’t read them, then you will never know.

Books by Aya Katz — Order Here

 

 

About Aya Katz

Aya Katz is the administrator of Pubwages. When she is not busy administering, she sometimes also writes posts like a regular user.

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3 Responses to Knowing People

  1. Pingback: Abstract Language | PubWages

  2. Sweetbearies says:

    There is something to be said for reading about past people and cultures. Verity probably learned more about Nabal this way than the average person learns about another asking small talk questions. I have also kept track before and noticed people did not even recall something another person said, even though everyone thinks that person is a great conversationalist. So being the life of the party does not always mean that person is knowledgeable about others.

    • Aya Katz says:

      Hi, Julia, I agree. The people that everybody agrees have the best social skills are not really all that interested in getting to know other people. They just manipulate others.

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