Sometimes, you meet people in situations that give you a good approximation of who they are.
As an example, I have a friend whom I met at a gas station, who bore witness for my girlfriend and I against some lying cops and stood by to make sure all remained copacetic. A person like that, you know some essential things about their innermost character from jump. Most people though, it takes time to get to know them.
The ups and downs of life and the vagaries of experience present challenges that reveal the full scope of personality. Sometimes, you can know someone for many years and not get an understanding of who they are at their core. I had another friend like that, a silent one that I worked with, partied with and who was friendly enough, but reticent in sharing personal information.
It may be a sibling. A parent. A friend since childhood. Something about them remains alien and unknowable. Coming to grips with this lack of knowing can be difficult. Until you realize that you already know everything you need to know about them.
That we are reflections of each other. That silence is a mirror, within which we see the nature of our own character. That life presents us with opportunities to encounter the unknown on its own terms and, by so doing, force us to face the unknowable that exists deep within ourselves.
Encounters with mystery are good for the soul. Good for the ego. It is important to recognize – and pay homage to – the sheer scale of our ignorance in the face of the infinite and eternal nature of existence. What we can know compared to all that is extant is but a mere pittance by comparison of scale. Breeds humility. A sense of wonder and awe.
Which is important.
To know that even those we think we know, we really don’t. I have no idea who the friend who stood up for us against those cops is, at heart. I have even less idea who that old, silent friend I knew for so long is, so many years later.
What I do know, is that our relations, whatever their basis has been formed on, have been real. That all relations are, no matter their duration or intensity. Each has been meaningful. Has fulfilled a certain purpose in our lives, whether we consciously recognize what that purpose has been or not.
Situational knowledge is important. But that is all it is. It is important not to take it for more than it truly is. To remain humble and open to mystery. Because our shared ignorance, is vast. And remaining open to knowing cognizant of this truth is to be open to enlightenment and the gift of grace, the ultimate knowing.