Knowing Someone

Knowing someone can be a daunting challenge as we stumble on our journey through a sea of humanity, emotions and experiences. The depth of our human experience is one of personal variability. Some lives are lived in a perpetual state of skimming the surface, barely scratching what it means to be human.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Images have been added to serve as visual breaks.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 12-100 mm f/4 IS PRO @ 12 mm, f/8, 1/10, ISO-200,

At other times there are occasions when life touches us at our core. We are stopped dead in our tracks by moments of profoundness when the essence of our existence is laid bare. Even if just for a fleeting moment… there are instances of absolute clarity.

Each of us will come into contact with thousands of people throughout our lifetime. Those contacts may cover a wide range of contexts.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 20 mm, efov 54 mm, f/8, 1/25, ISO-400

Clients. Business associates. Casual acquaintances. Close friends. Wives. Husbands. Grandparents. Children. Aunts. Uncles. Nieces. Nephews. Teachers. Critics. Lovers. Abusers. The list goes on.

Through all of those human interactions we make assessments of the world around us. And, of the people that are in our lives at any given moment.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/8, 1/50, ISO-400

We make assumptions about the motivations of others. Their fears. Their passions. Their relative level of happiness or unhappiness. Perhaps it is part of our human nature to make comparisons with others. Sometimes those comparisons are starkly material in nature.

Knowing someone goes beyond comparisons. Or assumptions about behaviours. Or the expectations we may have of other people.

Semantics are continually at play as we go about our daily lives. What does ‘knowing’ actually mean?

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 7-14 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, efov 28 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-200

Many of us use the word knowing in a very casual way. Sometimes knowing someone is perceived as nothing more than casually meeting someone. How many times have we heard, “Yeah… I know them.”

If we examine the meaning of ‘knowing’ we find that its definition sets a much higher standard. As an adjective knowing is “showing or suggesting that one has knowledge or awareness that is secret or known to only a few people”. It is something that is “done in full awareness or consciousness”.

Glengarriff Blue Pool Walk Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 7 mm, efov 18.9 mm, f/8, 1/80, ISO-160

When we live our lives in a ‘knowing’ way it is a “state of being aware or informed”.  Or being in possession of exclusive knowledge or information. So, knowing someone is not a casual, surface experience. It is a state where a deep understanding of another is achieved.

Knowing someone cannot be done without the establishment of absolute trust. This is not easily accomplished. Even with our life partners, children, and best friends. Trust is about 100% reliability and truth.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 79mm, efov 213.3mm, f/8, 1/500, ISO-800

Those of us with whom confidences have been shared, understand how difficult it can be not to betray those confidences. If we have betrayed any of those confidences in the past… those betrayals do not fade with time. Through our betrayals we have failed others.

Is it possible to live knowing someone fully? Regardless of how long we have been with our life partner… how confident are we that we have a full and deep understanding of them? Or, will there always be parts of that person that will forever remain hidden from us? How many of us are totally open and honest for every single moment that we are in the presence of another? Even someone who we love deeply.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/8, 1/160, ISO-160

No one can truly live someone else’s life, or have a complete understanding of their thoughts and emotions. There is a simple reason for that truth. They are separate from us, and always will be. I may have shared experiences with my wife, but I can never experience her exact emotions. Or think her exact thoughts.

As our relationships with others deepen we can do our best to expand our knowledge and understanding of them. This can only be done when we suspend any and all of our judgements about them. The assumptions we make force others to fit into our preconceived notions of the world around us. Anything that is preconceived… is limiting.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 19 mm, efov 51.3 mm, f/8, 1/250, ISO-160

There is another fundamental reason why we can never completely  know someone else. One of the someone’s that is perpetually shrouded in mystery and subject to never ending discovery… is oneself. Each time we chip away at the mystery that is us… we reveal a tiny shred of understanding about how we interact with everyone around us. Increased awareness of how we interact with others changes our depth of knowing someone. To a greater, or lesser extent.

Every one of those chips that has fallen away during our journey of self-discovery has the potential to redefine what it means for each of us to be human. Knowing someone is a journey of self-discovery that is with us until the end. Thinking that knowing someone outside of ourselves is possible… is an illusion.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 18 mm, efov 48.6 mm, f/5,6m 1/50, ISO-400

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post. Images were resized for web use. This is the 1,190 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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4 thoughts on “Knowing Someone”

  1. Dear Thomas, this article confirms the validity of a simple, but profound quote from the late Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh: “are you sure?”
    Even our own thoughts are just thoughts and nothing more . . .

    Regards Frans

  2. I doubt that most people ‘really’ know themselves. I don’t think there is a valid reason to ‘really’ know someone else. Let the mystery of personalities be another one of the spices of life.

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