Wednesday, December 26, 2012
On the inside
I am struck by how difficult it is relating to people. I have discussed language and communication many times here, and clearly this contributes to the difficulties that occur in relationships. But there is more to it than this. One of Sartre’s characters once said: l'enfer, c'est les autres, “Hell is other people”. To other people, we are objects in their world. There is no way that they can get inside us and feel the world as we feel it, see it as we see it. We can sometimes guess what might be going on inside another person, by the outward signs (including language) by which they manifest themselves in the world. But we can never be as sure of this as we can be of our own experience – at least, we believe that we can be sure of our own experience, although drugs and psychosis should make us hesitate about that too.
Add to this the fact that most of us are somewhat wounded and battered on the inside, no matter how “together” we might like to appear on the outside. And because of this woundedness we build up defences, that often take the form of an attack on others. The best form of defence, etc. etc. We are also very sensitive to what appear to be attacks by others upon us, even though they might not be intended as such. All of this makes relating to others very difficult.
So why bother? At one level the answer is simple: We need each other. Working together we are stronger, more versatile. But there is a deeper reason than this, and one that perhaps defies a purely pragmatic explanation. There are moments when we really do feel that we connect with another person, that we meet at some place that feels “real”. This may not last long, but it is one of those moments that make the rest worthwhile. Perhaps it is a recognition that we are not, in fact, alone in this world. That those other creatures moving around out there, that look and sound something like us, really are like us. They have an inside, just as we have.
So, I guess maybe you are all real after all (well, most of you – I have my doubts about the little green elf sitting in the corner).