How do I know other people? This question hung over me the other day. Actually, I had many questions floating around in my subconscious, but the feeling of doubt about my (or for that matter, anyone’s) capacity to know others impacted me deeply.
I was scanning the many hundreds of photos my parents had accumulated throughout the years. I looked at images ranging from my mother at the age of eight sitting on a horse to recent times. As I chose the images to scan, I relived scenes in which I participated (if I could remember them) or marveled at my inability to remember anything. Sometimes feelings would arise out of the blue (or so it seemed) and make me spin and other times I would go off on a tangent for an unknown period of time as I processed an unexpected memory of people from the past. It is an interesting experience, almost like that which I have heard one goes through at the moment of death. “Your life flashes before your eyes.” It took me over 5 days to scan the almost 1000 images (and sort through the other 2000 I did not scan!) and I was deeply affected by the stirring memories. I cannot imagine the power of all of them flashing by in a moment! Besides, most of my experiences were not recorded as a paper photo and many did not even manifest in external action. Countless memories are buried deeply in the vaults of my consciousness with labels on them such as, “DO NOT OPEN UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!” What happens when they are thrown at you all at once?
I do not know if this idea of the life flash is true or if it includes all images of the life or only a selected portion of the most significant events, so I suppose I will have to wait and see. But back to the question, “How do I know others?” I do not mean it as, “How do I think about or see Joe over there.” I mean, “By what means or method do I gain knowledge about some other person and verify it?” I know how I think about Joe (no, he is not a plumber) but I am unsure about the steps taken to know him or even if they are valid, correct, true or relate to him at all. It is easy to know how I feel about Joe at this moment or how I felt about him before, but I know this can change rapidly.
Sometimes people upset me. Maybe they said something silly or hurtful to me or they did something I really disliked. I might be upset with them for a long time, but if they change their way of dealing with me or their energy towards me, I can change my feeling quickly. This gives me the clue that part of my vision about others is connected to how they see me. But then, not all people see me or know me, yet I have an idea about them. On what basis is this idea created? Is my idea about them based on what they have said or done? Must be to some extent, but I only know a miniscule portion of what they have said or done and even then I am not certain if they really said it, or if they did, how they meant it. I know that sometimes I say some words that another person heard completely opposite to my intention. They are sure I said one thing while I am positive I said another. I heard my intention, they heard something else. I know that everyone does what they think is right at the moment they do it, so for me to understand what another does requires me to know those circumstances, feelings, situations and so on the person was absorbed in when they acted. And to complicate matters more, sometimes I am forced to act in a manner I do not like for reasons that are beyond my control. How can I say this was not what happened to another person?
I like the saying, “Don’t criticize another person till you have walked a mile in their shoes.” I have known this for some time. I did not always see this in the past and scanning these images helped me gain a deeper insight into these people who appear in the photos.
I therefore wait and attempt to gather as much information as I can about another person before coming to a conclusion, and even then I have to be prepared to adapt or adjust my idea. There are no absolutes about people for they are in a constant state of change. A person now is not the same as they were years before, although they may have similarities. Many books and movies are produced that focus on the hidden inner changes of a person seemingly the same on the outside.
So I continue to examine what it is in me that jumps to conclusions. I want to know why I see others as I do. Regardless, I will continue to pick and choose my associates, find my friends in those who are real friends, and embrace my family through the thick and thin of events. If there is only one of us, it is my duty to do so.