It’s a line from Moll Flanders, by Defoe. A book from 1722, yet the question is still valid.
Do you not know me?
Who does know another person? Sometimes I wonder if we all wander about, selves packaged in different boxes, pulling each section out depending own we are with. It’s not that we are dishonest, exactly, more that different parts of us fit better with different people. So who can really know us?
I’m taking an excellent Teaching Company course with the brilliant professor Arnold Weinstein. I’ve taken other courses with him, through Coursera, and he is such an impressive speaker and he understands and interprets literature so well I had to purchase this version from the TC (thanks Marie-Danielle for telling me about these people!) Weinstein dissects treasures of literature: Moll Flanders, Bleak House, To The Lighthouse, Proust, to name a few. He brings in humanity, the what if of the characters and the writers, not in the “analyze the green light at the end of the pier” way of high school, but wrapped in his knowledge of the times. He has a few gaps. He assigns to Moll an avarice, without saying anything about the grim status of women at that time if they did not have money. And of course, he relies rather heavily on male writers, but that is the way of things.
The best thing is that he brings universal themes into the discussion of the books, and makes me think about them. Thus the wondering about being known.
Coincidentally, I’m also reading a graphic novel, “Are You My Mother?” by Alison Bechdel.(The brilliant founder of the Bechdel test!) It, too is all about being known. About how it is only in writing that we end up actually defining ourselves, or others. Whether we write in journals (note to children: should I die, burn before reading), or stories, or lists (as in the very creepy Walt, by Russell Wangersky), we reveal ourselves best, I think, through the written word.
Alas for relationships, we rarely share those words, instead relying on speech and actions, those malleable things, to let others know who we are. True, we are what we do, but our motivations – ahhh, those are a different kettle of fish, often known only to us. And perhaps that’s a good thing.
We can figure them out, but it requires acute attention, a rare thing. I once knew someone who studied me, got to know me so very well, read my mind almost. It was unsettling, though I was grateful someone had finally seen behind my screen.
But I am comfortable, partially shielded, and knowing that is part of knowing me, too.
Do you not know me?