You Don’t Know Me

If you find the phrase in the caption provocative, I have achieved my purpose.

This is how I developed this assertion—

The primary actor in this story is my now dead friend Fredric B. Pape, Fred. I was living alone in California many decades ago when he visited me from where he lived in Tracy, California, in an 8’ x 18’ mobile home which wasn’t going anywhere soon.

During the period of his visit I was invited to dinner with a female colleague and friend who graciously invited Fred as well, without having previously met him.

After a pleasant dinner during which Fred was polite but mostly silent, being a person who valued his privacy, especially in the company of a stranger, and especially in the company of a woman he had not previously met.

Image of the Unified Self, per Carl G. Jung

After dinner we retired to the living room to have drinks and conversation. My friend was quite curious about Fred but was unsuccessful in drawing him out beyond polite and brief responses. She, frustrated, turned to me and asked me to elucidate on the subject of Fred. I hesitated, feeling boxed in between two friends, and before I could respond (and I still don’t know what my response to her would have been) Fred pointedly asked me: “Ron, do you know me?”

This is what occurred in the millisecond before I answered him: he was the only man to whom I had revealed things I had revealed to no other person; the converse was true as well. Since we were teenagers we had developed our special language, both verbal and written (we each, ultimately, wrote around 300 letters to each other) and could signify agreement, disagreement, or disinterest in a current subject by the merest of grunts or body language. In that millisecond I knew I did not know the inner Fred, the private Fred that he kept to and for himself alone because I knew he didn’t know the private inner me.

“No,” was my answer to Fred, and I could see that it pleased him, even if it further frustrated our host.

There are things I carry with me that no one has ever or will ever know about: guilts from having done wrong to a person or to my own sense of propriety and integrity; pains of embarrassment from having done foolish or thoughtless things, even if no one was aware; having been found ignorant of something generally known; having harbored evil thoughts, even if they were not acted upon.

I don’t feel unusual in this.

The pains from these transgressions upon my own sense of correctness will never leave me. But I have learned to accept these as part of myself. I have encased them in a covering such as a mollusk will cover an irritant with a pearl and having metaphorically (even visually) pushed them to the back of my brain. The memories of the painful incidents recur less and less often as I age, but I know they are still there.

I sensed that Fred, similarly, had experiences and pains which he kept to himself.

But this recitation doesn’t address the fundamental truth that no one of us knows him- or herself completely. For instance, has any of us “unified” our conscious mind with our unconscious mind as discussed by philosopher William James and psychologist Carl G. Jung?

If any of us can’t fully know oneself, how can we know another?

 


Further reading:

Attempting to Comprehend Man

 

 

About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate American living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles, memoirs, and creative writing.
This entry was posted in Consciousness, Philosophy, The Mind, The Self and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to You Don’t Know Me

  1. Tim Foxley says:

    Thanks Ron – you have provoked my thoughts 🙂 Tim

    Tim Foxley

    +46 70353 2620 http://afghanhindsight.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “There are things I carry with me that no one has ever or will ever know about: guilts from having done wrong to a person or to my own sense of propriety and integrity; pains of embarrassment from having done foolish or thoughtless things, even if no one was aware; having been found ignorant of something generally known; having harbored evil thoughts, even if they were not acted upon.”

    Exactly.

    Like

  3. budbromley says:

    You have presented the argument for skepticism, which is also the argument for the scientist. I have had the benefit of many mentors. I stand on their shoulders. I cannot in good conscience mention names because they cannot respond.

    Like

  4. I find your assertions uncomfortably true.

    Like

  5. Eric Gandy says:

    Interesting stuff Ron. I think it is important to distinguish between knowing what someone has been up to in their life, including secrets and misadventures, and knowing what kind of person that someone is. You can hide things, keep secrets about what you have done and what you have been thinking, but is it possible to hide who you are, your personality, from others? There are probably many who have an idea who you are, without knowing all your thoughts and secrets. And people who know you may of course have different pictures of who you are. In particular it can be difficult to
    reconcile the picture you have of yourself, and other peoples view. I have the feeling that some people know me better than I know myself – for better or worse. How often has one heard:
    “I´m not like that!”
    “Yes you are, I know you.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had a similar thought. Truly knowing someone is difficult and rare but not impossible.

      My best friend I’ve known since the 3rd grade. It was so early in life that I can’t even recall how we met. He simply was around in the same school and neighborhood. We grew up together and I’ve spent more years living near him than not. I see him often on a weekly basis and have been doing so for most of my life.

      I can’t claim to know his every last secret. But as for who he is on a fundamental level, I know him about as well as I know myself. Then the question comes down to how well I know myself or anyone can know themselves, a much more complex issue.

      Still, I suspect I wouldn’t know myself as well as I do if I didn’t know someone who knows me so well. Self-awareness is only possible to the degree we have social awareness, that is to say deep relationships. As some argue, theory of mind is something we first learn from others and only later internalize.

      Like

  6. Pingback: Nosce Te Ipsum – Weltanschauung

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