The reality of being alone creates the reality of relationship


Our three grandchildren range in age: just over two, just over three, and six years old. They are adorable. I think at first that is not possible for a grandchild to be anything less than adorable. Of course that is the message sent coursing from my eyes through the internal web, the model for the one we can all connect to, that mushy thing that lives, sometimes in comfort, sometimes in despair, inside my skull.

(Stanley S. Smith/

(Stanley S. Smith/

Someone else might see them as cute, or clumsy; hear them as too quiet or too loud; experience them as too shy or too pushy.

The odd, trembling and troubling reality is simply this: no one will ever see them with my eyes.

And that way too simple reality is the source for all the pain and confusion we find with each other. We metaphor it and mask it, and in doing so, misdirect our thinking and avoid the fundamental significance it presents.

When we plead with each other, “try to see it my way” we don’t mean “see it”. We mean “understand it”. But the failure to understand “it”, whatever that “it” might be is the consequence of not being able to see it the way I “see it”.

And now I am in a tangle of a synapse sequence. One thing leads not to an other, but to a myriad of others. No one can hear, my music the way I hear it. Nor can I hear their music the way they hear it.

No one can feel the wooden stirring spoon, nor the soapy wash cloth rubbing my face the way I feel them as I hold them.  They cannot know in their bodies what I know in mine.

I am alone in this particled and particular body.

(Stanley S. Smith/

(Stanley S. Smith/

And I am at the same time in relationship to and with every thing and every one. When I step aways from myself to watch the subject/object “I and Me” as a process rather than as an identity, I experience for a fleet footed moment this inescapable paradox: it is through my relationship to people, things and ideas that I discover who I am.

But that very self of my on-going discovery is not who everyone else sees when they see the “me” that “I” am. We cannot see anything or anyone through someone else’s eyes.

If that is true, it means to me that we can understand each other only marginally; our agreements must be rooted in our differences and will always produce the thorns and flowers of those differences. Learning how to live productively, and when possible, lovingly, into that reality is the task of a lifetime.

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