To Know Someone

How do you really know someone?

How do you define knowing someone — really knowing them?

I can get all philosophical and try to tie this in with all the epistemology argument, but I’m too lazy to do it. Or I can get very joke-y about this and write about knowing someone in biblical sense. But I’m not feeling that cynical/satirical today.

How do you really know someone?

I don’t know the answer to this, but when my grandmother passed away, I felt like I never truly knew her. Though I don’t really know what it meant to know someone, I understand and felt it in my bones and in my veins that I did not know her.

A lot of people equate loving with knowing. It is tempting to do so, but what they don’t realize is that you can very easily love someone you never really know. When this happens it’s the idea of that someone that you love, not the person. This is the recipe for most of life dramas.

And then there’s hate. I think in some ways, hating a particular person is actually closer to knowing them than loving them. I always felt that hatred is such a singular, uncompromising, simple emotion when directed toward one other human being; while loving someone can take so many malleable forms and various manifestations… toxic love, pure love, filial love, romantic love, passionate love, dead love…hatred, hatred toward another is so unique. When you hate someone, you don’t take them for granted the way you do to the ones you love or claim to love. Hating someone requires effort, active participation, and aggressive, exhausting investment of emotion. In some ways I don’t fully understand, I believe that to utterly hate someone means to know them as well.

But then again, I never hated someone this much, so what do I know?

All I know was that my grandmother was the first and probably the only person to ever love me unconditionally. And I had taken her for granted. I had done so all my life.

I don’t know if my grandma had any dreams. I know she had regrets. Many. I didn’t put in the effort to knowing what those were, when she was alive. If I did, would that be enough to know her?  But there must be something more than just understanding another person’s regrets and dreams to actually know them.

She was a wife, a mother, a sister, a grandmother, a woman. She was always a woman to me. She represented everything I did not want to become, but at the same time everything I admired, too.

We slept in same room when I was younger. I used to wake up at night at the sound of her snoring. Ever since we scattered her ashes in the sea, I’ve been having some insomnia problems. Not every night, but some nights. Tonight might be one of those nights.

Also, I still don’t know how to make peace with the fact that I now have to type everything about her in past tense.

Did I fail her by not knowing her? I feel like I knew her enough to know that she would smile and answer “no”.

So, how do you know someone?

If I could anticipate what the other person is going to say in a given situation, do I know them, then? If I knew how to make them laugh? If I knew which movies will stun them, which songs will bring them to tears? If I knew all the childhood stuff they are embarrassed about and adult stuff they dread about? If I knew what virtues are important to them in life? If I knew their vices and their good deeds, if I knew whether they believe in God, if I knew what they thought about death… If I knew their fears and dreams and insecurities and successes and memories and hopes? If I knew what they think and feel about other people?

If I knew that they’d tell me something and end it with “I’ve never told this to anyone else before”?

Would that be enough?

If I knew when they are lying, if I knew when they are happy, angry, sad, disappointed.

If I knew whether they want to be known.

If I knew whether they want me to truly, deeply, fully know them. Would that be enough, then?

Is that how you can truly know someone? When nothing they do, say, think can surprise you anymore but somehow you still want to see, hear, feel them do, say, and think all those things? How do you know whether you even want to know someone? Whether you even should want to?

Here’s the scary thing. What if you truly, really know someone. And then you lost that person – you lost the person the same way everyone else lost someone: you lost them to death, or you lost them to life. When you lost someone to death, everything you know about them is preserved in the past, in memories. There was an end point where you stopped knowing more about them, but you still did truly know them.

Wouldn’t it be more tragic if you lost someone because life gets in the way? Stopped knowing someone because you lost them to life? Knowing that this person who leaves (or you left) continues to evolve, grow, change, to morph into another person you used to know but no longer do.

Have I ever really, truly known anyone? Will I ever?

How would I know if anyone knows me, at all? Will anyone ever?

 “I believe if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.

Julie Delpy, Before Sunrise & Before Sunset: Two Screenplays

The answer must be in the attempt.


It’s been a while.




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