The title of this post is a lyric from a song I like.
Paraphrased from Alan Watts: From a young age, you are conditioned to act according to a set of expectations, when young Johnny acts like Peter, his parents say, “You are not being true to yourself, that’s Peter you are being, you are Johnny”…the real you and the you everyone expects are two different things.
In a 12 hour drive, one gets to thinking, and I was thinking about identity and perception. It is a mistake to assign narrative to identity. We have seven basic stories that we tend to tell each other. But how would you tell the story of a life? Obituaries describe people by their familial relationships to others, and they make explicit the beginning and the end. Resumes talk about all of the work that was done by someone and all of the times that work was recognized. Facebook is series of things people post that they believe will be interesting to others (though they overestimate how much anyone cares). None of these things would be enough to tell you if you would like the person, even if they would tell you that you would not like the person, you can never know if you will like a person until you meet them.
You meet people and you test them. You see how they react to concepts or stories. You smell some chemicals/hormones, knowing or unknowingly. When you depart the person, you have a feeling that you could force into a category: like, don’t like or don’t care. So you begin to record what you know of the person, and your opinion of the person, and how you think that person thinks of you (maybe if you feel so invested), and how you want to be associated with that person in the future, and the list goes on, probably.
But what of knowledge? When do you know a person? It happens when you might predict/describe their outward behavior in a hypothetical or historical setting. You know someone when you know what they will do. Johnny’s parents, know when Johnny is acting like Peter, and they act to enforce what they know. Where is this in the obituary or Facebook timeline? This is where memories are prisons or at least restraints. You better be who I think you are. Or maybe Johnny is in control of where he places expectations. Maybe he knows how you will react to him not being Johnny. Because you are you, and you react to things predictably. You might know a person by the way they look, move or the cocktail of neuroses they suffer. You know details, descriptors of how a person occupies space and time. Experience is rich with information, and stories aren’t. Good writers chisel out characters in a nuance of physical, mental, or moral details. The goal is some form of familiarity or empathy with the character, and good writers/filmmakers/painters…some type of artists are the best at flushing out how to best tell a story of a person.Though this is record, not reality.There is room somewhere for free will, and stories, no matter how good, don’t give the experience of being someone else. Sure, this is well known. Sure, this is nothing new, but this is unacknowledged in most settings. This is the type of thing you think about on a long drive, and you feel contemplative.