To "Know" Someone
What does it mean to "know" someone? Can we ever really know anybody? Or, do we indeed already know everybody and it's just a question of recognizing them? Is there a difference between knowledge of the mind and knowledge of the spirit? And what has that knowledge got to do with love?
We all feel the longing to be recognised, deeply and truly seen for what we really are: divine beings having a human experience. When someone comes along and sees us that way, recognises us in all our innate awesomeness, and is fearless enough to overcome their own doubts and fears of rejection to acknowledge and expresses that recognition, it is like the veil has been suddenly lifted from the mirror, the curtains removed from the window to our soul and in an instant we feel and experience our true nature, see ourselves through their eyes as the divine beings we truly are. All at once we are "in love" and "at one" with all that is, feel this all-encompassing sense of ecstasy, openness, joy, happiness, enthusiasm, energy, attraction, not just for the person who has come along and seen us, showed us to ourselves, but for all that is.
Have you ever found yourself suddenly smiling at and making eye-contact with strangers, connecting to the world around you in a deeper, more meaningful and joyful way, all as a result of one person having stepped into your life and acknowledged the divine spark in you? This acknowledgement can take many forms, it could be a sincere and heartfelt compliment, or an agreement on something that is close to your heart, such as a political viewpoint, or an aesthetic perception (liking the same music, artwork, food, picture etc.), or even something as apparently mundane as supporting the same sports team.
Your exuberant joy at your essence having been recognised and agreed with makes you transcend all the usual boundaries of everyday life, imbuing things with a magic formerly unknown and yet so familiar. Your soul realises that this is the way you truly are, the way you therefore should be feeling all the time.
Sadly, in the third dimension, this state of being is subjected to all sorts of third-dimensional concerns and assaults and is therefore fragile and inherently unstable and can be easily tipped back into non-ecstasy, non-joy, non-awareness and non-love.
People have been connecting "knowing" with "loving" throughout history , song-lyrics and poems come to my mind whenever I contemplate the issue:
"I hunger for a pair of eyes to notice and to recognise" (Suzanne Vega, Institution Green)
"Each look with which you look at me sustains me more than food and drink." (Ancient Egyptian, Poem 2, from IIc, The Third Collection, Papyrus Harris 500)
"How can you see into my eyes like open doors, leading you down into my core, where I've become so numb, without a soul, my spirit sleeping somewhere cold, until you find it there and lead it back home. Wake me up inside, wake me up inside, call my name and save me from the dark, bid my blood to run before I come undone, save me from the nothing I've become" (Evanescene, Bring Me To Life)
"We wander forth, and hand in hand through flowery ways we go - I am the fairest in the land, for he has called me so." (The Dove Song, Ancient Egyptian)
"To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him" (sung by Emmylou Harris, written by Phil Spector)
The latter quote seeming apparently trivial and referring only to the fact that someone is a very likeable person, but there is more to it: if we truly know someone, we will love them, everyone is lovable if we can tune our eyes through the flesh and into their essence.
There is the term of man and woman "knowing" each other quoted sometimes from a biblical context, and considered generally a funny old-fashioned euphemism for having sex. Here too I feel people are missing the point: two people feeling attracted to each other enough to want to have sex, have got a deep and strong connection. And I am talking about real, powerful, irresistible attraction to each other here, not some kind of "oh well, I've got needs, you've got needs, let's you scratch my back and I scratch yours" encounter, which is effectively a case of "this person will do (for the time being)". I am talking about a moment of "I cannot NOT have sex with this person!", a kind of awakening of the spirit through the body, which goes much deeper, and is much more intense than just a physical need. I am talking about a hunger for merging and joining, and the urge to experience the "pleasure of giving pleasure" and the joy of becoming one. This happens only when two people meet and really see the spark inside, when they "know" each other, and realise "I am you and you are me, we are one, this is what we always were, this is that we were meant to be and this is what we shall try and become".
This statement "I am you and you are me, we are one…" does of course apply to everything that exists, though in our present state of being we only experience this "knowing", this "knowledge", in exceptional circumstances.
Once you have experienced this kind of attraction and merging, there is a risk of addiction, of assuming that you need the other person's eyes to see, know and love yourself through them: "only this one person can make me complete and therefore I must hold on to them at all cost, lest I be torn to pieces should they ever not be part of my present-day physical life any longer". This attitude is toxic and breeds all sorts of problems: we might isolate and alienate ourselves from all but that one person, or we might hold on to an unhappy or abusive relationship, we could become jealous, suspecting, controlling and fearful that the other person might, heaven forfend, not only exist exclusively for us, we are totally incapacitated when the person leaves our life, either to move on to another dimension (a process commonly known as "dying") or to other aspects or people in their life which become important to them. The belief that there is "the one" (and only one) can be very crippling and limiting.
When I was 15 I had a toxic relationship with a guy who owned a café. I went there for a snack on my way home, we got chatting, hit it off completely on the same wavelength, he was complimentary of my philosophical musings, attentive, kind and thoughtful, warm and passionate, all the while very concerned about what I would think of him and how he would come across, he was extremely careful not to put me off. He said after that first conversation “Do come more often, I would love to chat to you more and get to know you better, please don’t think I am an arsehole or something, but I really want to get to know you". I suddenly felt alive in a way I had never known before, felt loving and caring towards the whole world, started making eye-contact and smiling at strangers and felt like the universe suddenly had meaning because, having never experienced mutual attraction previously, I believed I had found the one who made me whole. I broke up with my "he will do time being" boyfriend and was convinced that this guy would do the same, IF he was in a relationship, which didn't come across as he was not projecting a sense of being attached to anyone but me.
Then, after ten days or so, when I was already totally addicted to him, I went there to see him as I did every afternoon, and he came towards me as I went in, with his wife and 3 children in tow and did not acknowledge me, leaving the place.
My world fell apart! I cried for hours until I was literally sick, throwing up from all the uncontrollable sobbing. My soulmate, my twin-flame, the one and only person in the whole wide universe to ever make me complete (that’s what it felt like at the time), and he had cheated me like that. I felt I could never trust my own feelings again, because I had been so certain about “us” and had clearly been wrong, so how could I ever open and trust my heart again?! I swore to never go back there and kept that oath for one whole day…
When I did go back he got down on his knees and hugged me, sniffing my scent and saying very dramatically “Where have you been?! How could you do this to me?! I can’t imagine ever living without you again, I have already planned you into my life, been wondering what you will be like when you’re 30… I love you, for all intents and purposes…”
And for "all intents and purposes" he did love me, but only that, he never committed to me and neither was he committed to his "other" life, to his wife and children, stringing us all along out on a limb; the affair went on for years. Occasionally we made love and on one occasion it was such a spiritual experience that we literally swapped bodies and I was feeling my hands' touches to his body on mine, and was making his movements on me as though my body was performing them. I was seeing him less and less frequently because he never had time for me any more and had sold the café, I turned into a jealous wreck, completely unable to trust anyone, hating myself, self-harming and having nervous breakdowns. Whilst all this was going on, my dog died, I had an abortion, my Dad got terminally ill of cancer, I cared for him without being allowed to discuss his condition so could never say goodbye to him, then he died, I started relationships and broke up with two other guys, which were doomed because I did not fancy them one bit but was just trying to distract myself from the guy I did fancy, but couldn’t stop seeing. All that was going on in my life between the ages of 15 and 18. It felt like the suffering lasted a decade or more.
A couple of months before my 18th birthday I had written him a letter including a picture of me at a distance, naked on the beach in the sunset, "dressed" as a mermaid with a wig made of seaweed, a reference to one of “our” songs, "Calypso" by Suzanne Vega, where she lets her lover sail. I was asking of him to officially let me go but said that I wanted to see him one more time to talk about how things had been and how I felt inside and to say farewell. No answer. On my birthday I went to his house, knocked on the door and he shouted at me “Do you realise the damage you have caused with that letter?!” I can only surmise that my goodbye-letter had been opened and read by his wife and had become the final straw that broke his hollow marriage's weary back, me thus becoming the catalyst for a long overdue divorce after years of mutual unhappiness and extramarital affairs.
In the end he offered me his hand, which I refused because his touch was always so intoxicating and electrifying to me that I didn't want to take the risk of feeling him once more, and I said “I hate you!” I didn’t mean that of course, but I wanted to make sure that I burned all the bridges, so I could never restart the affair as I had done so many helpless and hopeless times before. He, however, replied simply “I know.” As though that had been the content of my letter all along. In retrospect I think he probably meant "It's understandable and justified that you should hate me after all I have done to you", but at the time I wished he had at least felt passionate enough to say “I hate you too.” It would have felt better, like I did actually matter to him and was a source of intense emotions, not just one of many women and girls he used and abused. Nonetheless, from then my life improved.
I was convinced I could never love again, there wasn't anyone out there for me, because "the one" had been tried, tested and discarded, so I remained celibate for a long time and systematically suppressed all about me that was not rational. In fact, to this day I have never kissed someone like I used to kiss him, because his was the only kiss that meant something and was not disgusting to me. However, eventually I realised that all is not black and white in love and that we have more than one "soul-mate" in the world.
Later in life, I got my opportunity in turn to experience the other's point of view, me being the one trapped in the inauthentic marriage, when I met a person who really got through to, and "knew", my inner self. I eventually took the consequences and left my husband, country and family and the life that had long felt like it wasn't really mine any more, but some kind of film-set someone else had set up for me to live in, like a cage.
My husband tried to commit suicide by jabbing a knife into his solar plexus in front of my eyes when I told him I had met David and knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I managed to wrestle the knife off him and chuck it out of the window and then vowed not to keep in touch with David, as my husband made me promise. But I just couldn't keep up living a lie, and after a few months I got on a plane with nothing but a few clothes and a toothbrush and did a geographical. Leaving my home and husband and family (and on bad terms at that!) was not an easy thing to do, and I might never have done it had I not felt like a prisoner inside my own life, made to live a life that simply was not my destiny. Had my husband been tolerant and easy-going, I might have left the contact with my newly found soulmate David at writing emails. So, sadly in this case the drama was necessary to wrench me out of the complacent nightmare that was my life, and from the bosom of my overprotective family, so I could finally grow up and emancipate myself.
This also shows how jealousy does not serve to hold on to, but instead drives the person away from you. It is worth noting that I have experienced jealousy towards someone else only in relationships that were actually not doing me good in the first place. I have never felt jealous about any encounter David has ever had, even when other women made passes at him, because I know we are meant to be together. I cannot say the following with absolute certainty, because the situation has never occurred, but if he told me he felt attracted to someone else, I would encourage him to sleep with that person, because I want him to feel pleasure and happiness. In retrospect I think jealousy occurs either when you are deeply uncertain of your own lovability and worthiness of love and respect, and are waiting to be "found out" by the other person as unlovable, or when deep down inside you know you are in the wrong relationship, at the wrong time, in the wrong place, with the wrong person, that what is happening is not meant to be and you are in anticipation of, and trying to second guess how it might find, its inevitable ugly end.
The only answer it either learning to love yourself enough, so you don't depend on someone else to do it for you, or to stop living a lie and let the person go whom you already recognise as "not being the one for you" to the extent of anticipating the end of the relationship round every corner.
In the early days, David and I had been communicating electronically several times a day, including emails at 3 AM, because we just felt compelled to keep in touch and exchange our thoughts and feelings. I scanned and emailed him my paintings, I wrote poems about the experience and sent them to him, because it felt like he was the only person who could relate to, and understand me. David wrote some beautiful things to me during that time, lessons which will remain with me all my life, and beyond: "these people who know you ought to be pleased that something has made you happy", "your life is yours, not a resource for others", "don't let them cause you to act in any way that is not right for YOU" I have featured them in a recent blog post. He also said he wanted to give me space to "become", unfettered by what might be his expectations and desires, real or imagined, and I did him proud. He told me "wow them with your positivity" when I went to my first job-interview, I did and got the job. Everything I am now and everything I have achieved, I am and have achieved because of him.
Fast forward to now, 14 years (two "septades", as the anthroposophic movement calls it) later, and we are living contentedly alongside each other, sharing a home and the bills, our lives coasting gently along a sort-of parallel track, occasionally holding hands, but not really meeting or intersecting much, and sometimes I miss that sense to be "known", of someone looking at me, seeing my essence and recognising me as a divine being, someone being fascinated and irresistibly drawn to me and me to them. I worry at times what would happen to our relationship, if such a person came along and gave me that attention I miss and crave.
But then knowing how attracted to, and fascinated by each other David and I were then, and seeing what has become of us now, has taught me that this level of intensity is not sustainable. If you are lucky, but by no means as a matter of course and not in every case, passion will eventually turn into a steady friendship. This knowledge has, in a way, inoculated and prepared me for meeting other people, where the passion of a lifetime, condensed into a brief intense encounter, threatens to turn everything upside down and prompt me to take irrational actions to destroy existing relationship/s in order to follow that passion. I know that passion doesn't last and in the long run is not a healthy state of being, but can only be a catalyst for necessary drastic change in life. If there is no reason to drastically change life, why follow its destructive siren call? I am lucky that this once passionate affair turned into a life-long friendship and got me onto the path I needed to be on, but the next one might very likely turn into blood sweat and tears again and derail me from my life's path, like the one before. It is important to be aware of that possibility. Intense passion and attraction does not always mean "now you have to drop everything, up and go towards what triggered it".
Also, whilst it seems natural and easy and carefree to be fascinated by a person when they are new in your life, in the long run effort is required to sustain the interest and magic. If you are not willing to make that effort, if you assume you know everything there is to now about the significant other in your life, you will get bored with them.
There is a beautiful piece of writing by the Swiss author Max Frisch (1911-1991), from his diary, called "Thou Shalt Not Make a Graven Image", here is my translation:
It is remarkable how we find ourselves unable to describe, especially of the one we love, what he is like. We just love him. This is the essence of love, the wonder of love, that it sustains us in the suspense of aliveness, the willingness to follow a human being in all his possible developments.
We know that every human being, when he is loved, feels changed, unfolded, and that for the lover too, everything unfolds, even the mundane, the everyday. He sees it all as if it was for the first time. Love sets it free from any kind of preconception. That's the exciting thing, the adventure, the thrill, why we are not finished with the person we love; because we love her, as long as we love her.
Listen to the poets, when they are in love; they bumble and stumble around in search of comparisons, like drunkards, grabbing all kinds of things in the universe, flowers and animals, clouds, stars and seas. Why? Because, like the universe, like God's unfathomable spaciousness, free from all boundaries, full of all possibilities, full of mystery, is the person we love – only love can bear him to be so.
Why do we travel? This too, so we encounter people who don't believe they already know us, once and for all, so that we may experience once again what is possible for us in this lifetime – that being precious little as it is.
Our belief that we know the other spells the end of love, every time, though cause and effect may be different than one might be inclined to assume – not because we know the other, love comes to an end, but the other way round: because love has come to an end, because its strength has been exhausted, that's why we are done with the person. Have to be. We can't keep going any longer! We renounce our willingness to follow further transformations and developments. We deny him the birth-right of all living things, which is to remain unquantifiable, and yet we are surprised and disappointed that our relationship is no longer alive.
Says the disappointed one: "You are not who I thought you were." And what was that, that he thought she was? A secret, which is after all what a human being is, a stimulating riddle that we have grown tired of bearing unsolved. One has formed an image. That is the ultimate act of lovelessness, the treason. [...]
Thou shalt not make a graven image, it is said, of God. This commandment applies too to God as the life-force, the aliveness in every human being, all that which is not quantifiable. It's an abomination which we ceaselessly commit, as it is being committed against us – except whilst we are in love.
So the secret of love, according to Max Frisch, and I agree with him, is not to assume one already knows all there is to know about another person, but to remain open to and fascinated by their transforming self. That way you can rediscover them every day and "know" them in what I perceive to be the biblical sense: "When I look at you, I see the divine spark in you and I recognise that as myself, as something we have in common, and that makes me want to be with you."
The knowledge that kills love is the knowledge of the mind, the intellect, the ego, saying "I know what this person is like and I am tired of it, they bore me now". Knowledge of the heart and spirit however is the recognition of the miracle that is the other, which is both you and not you, both same and different all at once, and as such utterly attractive, utterly fascinating and utterly lovable.