Perspective: As he really is

by talkbackty on Aug 30, 2011

"Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is." -William James

I will divide these thoughts into three blogs and link each here as they become completed.

Part One: Himself
Part Two: Others

Part Three: Truth

There are six people present.

There is each man as he really is.

There are many directions this post can go. Spiritual is the one that jumps into my mind first. There is either some type of spiritual void before and after we die, or there is not. I don't have any great insights to lend to that conversation and my personal opinions, at least for now, will be kept personal.

I ask that we move beyond the initial spiritual question of defining who we really are. For one who believes, the answer is usually simple; there is our true selves, and God knows whom that is.

I can't speak to what God knows.

What I am interested in is the problem of identifying ourselves.

We are bound by certain sociological factors. Culture, time period, parents, friends. More importantly, language.

You are funny.

Stay with me here because it gets a little crazy. I'm also assuming you've read the other posts.

Who is that sentence referring to? You are funny. Obviously, it is spoken by a second person (in this case me). It is being said to you, but which you? Am I saying that to the person I perceive you are, the person you perceive you are, or the person you really are?

(That was tough, I know. Read it again if you must.)

All these people exist. All these creations are real. Now we are trying to get at truth. Are you truly funny? Or is the man I imagine you are funny? How can we decipher these differences?

More mind boggling...what does the word funny mean? My long-time philosophical question on the subject: Is a joke funny if no one laughs? Is a person funny if no one thinks he is?

I know this is heavily philosophical. I can't deal in reality for this part because I don't have any specific answers. Only more questions.

Language is obviously defined by society. If you need convincing ask the thirteen year old version of myself what the word sick means...the answer is cool. "That's sick man."

Is language truth though? When I say something am I actually speaking about the true object?

If you know another language fluently you've probably come across those specific phrases that have no translation. This boggles my mind. There is no word, maybe no combination of words, in the entire language that can define what another human being is experiencing.

Obviously, their experiences are happening. They are "true". But I can not define them. I can not explain them. I can not know them.

It seems like this happens all the time. Language is one of the first separators from truth, reality, actuality. Of course, it is also necessary.

Try describing yourself in seven words or less. It doesn't need to be complete sentences. I'll give you an example:

Kind. Smart. Funny. Tired. Hungry. Happy. Quiet.

Now try and count the definitions for each of those words. Then count the translations into other languages. Then study and immerse yourself in those languages enough so you know that what your saying is actually defining "kind" and not "generous." Then in each of those languages you are now an expert in, find the root of whatever word you are saying, trace it back as far as you can. As you can see, it's incredibly difficult to say only a few simple words and truly understand the meaning.

Can we ever know our true selves when even the language we use is confining, restricting, and impeding? (See what I did there, I used three words that all mean the same thing. Which is a joke fans of The West Wing will appreciate).

Again, this is not the post for answers. At the very least I hope that you have gained some questions of your own. Maybe questions you've never thought of before. That was my goal tonight.

"It's the questions we can't answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he'll look for his own answers." -Patrick Rothfusss

Faced with the unending questions that come with any philosophical inquiry I am left with only this:

We must understand that life is complicated, and complicated further by our own actions.

We must be humble in our dealings with others.

We must understand that there are things that we do not know.

There are six people present.

Who are you, really?