“People say that what we are seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.”—JOSEPH CAMPBELL
Why this and why not something else? This was my earliest recollected thought, and one that I’m still perplexed over, some 46 years later. As result of the very unique set of circumstances that helped to create a person such as myself, I’ve been blessed with a very diverse range of experiences, knowledge and insights, that are usually best kept to myself, but that may shed some light upon the way that some of us view, behave and interact with our worlds.
One of the most basic of truths of all, and fundamental to the human experience itself, is that we are all truly alone and separate from each other in this life, but that we also want to love and be loved so desparately that it can physically hurt us at times. I know this is what I have always felt so strongly personally, and from the very beginning of my life.
As a small child I would sit and concentrate on a self-directed task for many hours, sans the want or need of any human company. While I have always been fascinated with and loved other people, even from my earliest remembrance, I’ve never found myself needing them in the same way that they seem to need me. We are all inherently social creatures, but what that means to us individually, can have quite disparate meanings from person to person.
The ability (and need), to focus upon and comprehend things accurately with no external guidance, like all other human talents and gifts, is both a blessing and a curse. This particular ability, and the integrated memory ability that supports it, is both wonderful and horrific at the same time, and as I’ve discovered, truly only comprehensible by those who share a similar gift and affliction. It takes one to know one, and only through conscious experience can we possibly comprehend such truths, and not all of us are blessed or cursed with the same things in our lives.
It is true that we can never truly know another person, but we can deliberately attempt to come close to understanding them, as I’ve personally found that empathy is a muscle that can be exercised and strengthened, no matter what anybody thinks to the contrary. I’ve also discovered that the many do not consider empathy as vital to human connection as I do, as the more “normal” one tends to be, the less they feel misunderstood and hence the less motivation they feel for truly knowing others.
Most of us want to be understood very strongly, but do not feel strongly about wanting to understand others. It’s much less energetically expensive to act “as if” than to actually do, and therefore the appearance of compassion and emphaty usually suffices for most of us most of the time.
My own motivation for actively wanting to understand others came from my deep childhood need for being understood, which itself is one of the deepest longings of the human soul, though I’ve also discovered that the more we want something, the less of it we seem to experience.
In the end all we can do is our best, the trick is doing our best when the world yells at us that we are wrong, and still holding onto that truth inside that is us cheering for what we know to be right and true.