Wait. Listen. I’m not trying to be funny, smart. I just want to understand it if I can and I don’t know how to say it better.
William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!
The History Of Understanding
I always thought that there was one thing everyone else but I knew, as if I had missed a day of school in third grade when they handed out the instructions on how to handle life and then spent the rest of the time at a disadvantage without quite understanding what that one thing the rest of them had been told was. With every setback or disappointment I had an even more fervent belief that once I finally figured out what that one thing was that everyone else understood it all would fall into place for me. As I grew older I began to realize that everyone had that one thing too, and it was different for each person. But when I ultimately understood that there was a complete cartload of things that I didn’t understand, and that I never would, and that it didn’t really matter because I had already come this far and at the end of it there wasn’t some kind of gold watch or statue but just the ineffable indifference of the universe testifying to my ultimate insignificance, I finally figured out that none of it really mattered and that I had actually understood the way it all worked the whole time. And then I understood that, uh oh, I was probably missing something important.
People understand me so poorly that they don’t even understand my complaint about them not understanding me.
Repeating is the whole of living and by repeating comes understanding, and understanding is to some the most important part of living.
Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans
I’m afraid of time… I mean, I’m afraid of not having enough time. Not enough time to understand people, how they really are, or to be understood myself. I’m afraid of the quick judgements or mistakes everybody makes. You can’t fix them without time. I’m afraid of seeing snapshots, not movies.
As soon as we start putting our thoughts into words and sentences everything gets distorted, language is just no damn good—I use it because I have to, but I don’t put any trust in it. We never understand each other.