My vision is limited - as a narrator, I write only myself with an even passably clear notion of the full, vibrant range of desires, motives, causes, and so forth that shape me, and I am most likely unreliable, for as much as I need to hide from the world, so too I may find it necessary to hide from myself. Most often, it seems, those things that would cause me shame were I to look on them with unflinching directness, but sometimes too the joys that would require an unbearable trust or a painful realization.
But that’s not the path I meant to wander down with my opening statement. I am less concerned about the limits on my ability to know and speak myself. More concerned about the limits on my ability to know and speak someone else, whether to myself or in translating them to a third party.
Even when the universe of shared experiences is richly populated, we are aliens to one another. I can at best project what you may be thinking and feeling based on my own experiences or on what I’ve been taught by various means to believe would be a rational response. But I can’t really know it, and even at the best of times, we may be on two entirely different planes. You are you, distinctive and unique; I am I, likewise but in my own way.
Sometimes, most times, that’s okay. We only need enough to get by, and no more. But there are occasions when the mismatch between two or more people’s worlds isn’t so easy to disregard. Friction attends the fault lines, as well as misunderstanding, hurt, blame, betrayal, and confusion. Then the story I narrate must be written with greater care, delicately navigating a fraught space. But this is not done in isolation and without tools.
To take but one example, this is the beauty of gratitude. In the infinite tangle of actions and words, we choose selectively to attend to this set, rather than that set, and we extend thanks for that which is excellent and praiseworthy. Whatever else may be true, this is also true: that I see what you have done, intentionally or unintentionally, that in some way touches me, and I thank you for it. Not ignoring any harm you may have done, but attending for the moment to the more important reality, and blessing it and you for the fact of its existence.