Tuesday, May 20, 2014

'you don't understand'

I'm afraid I don't understand you (or you, either) and I dare say no one understands another. Not completely, not inside the skin, within the neural system, not entirely. Doesn't neuroscience confirm this more and more with every study? (I don't know. You tell me.) What I mean is, "what I want you to understand is," we think (enough with the italics already!) we know what another person feels and thinks. We claim we understand the other person's perspective. We feel we share a perception. We say this especially for those who are related to us by blood (parents and children and siblings and so forth). We say this about those we love. Or hate. Therapist and patient claim it. Business partners. Clients and associates. Intimate friends. Lovers. But it's silly, really, to think two infinitely different universes of experience can somehow overlap or merge or align perfectly. It's absurd to imagine that the river of solipsism can be so fordable. These are not cynical assertions. True, when we have glimpses of this "understanding" of another, they are rewarding, even exhilarating. There are such moments, or we at least perceive them as moments of shared illumination. Wonderful. I celebrate that, I salute it. And isn't this what art, music, literature, poetry, ballet, painting, sculpture, film, even sports do? Yes. But these are fleeting glimpses, glimpses we are thrilled by. We are grateful for such moments. But they are rare, in my view; if not rare, not commonplace. I suppose there is no way to prove or disprove this conclusively. But I posit that "you don't understand" is the norm among humans, except perhaps for conjoined twins. Hence, the study of semantics, semiotics, diplomacy, sociology, linguistics, psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, anthropology, et cetera ad nauseam ad infinitum. Mirabile dictu. Mirabile visu.

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