I finished I. Asimov – A Memoir this morning in tears. I didn’t realize that he wrote this in the last couple of years before his death. I felt like I gained a friend while I read chapter after chapter. I saw him, I knew him well, we connected, and then he was gone. His wife edited the manuscript, added an epilogue, and had it published after he had passed on. The words his wife used to start her epilogue were what finally broke me up.
“One of the deepest desires of a human being is to be known and understood.” From I. Asimov – A Memoir
Each and every one of us has this desire and manifests it in our own special way. Through art, service, business, science, religion, or simply though living a life, we all seek to be known and understood.
I believe that is exactly why the internet, through blogs and social media, is so alluring to us. It expands the ability to express ourselves and be seen.
But are we ever understood?
I’m not sure.
If I don’t thoroughly understand myself, how can I be understood by others?
Every book or article I read brings new information. Every journal entry or mediation session sheds new light. Every blog post I write and share organizes my thoughts and gets me closer to what I’m really trying to say.
Do we seek to know and understand others?
I’m not sure we do.
I know that I do see people. I see what my family and friends are posting on their social media accounts. I read what others post on their blogs. But do I really engage with them? Do I try to understand why they are sharing, what they really want to say? Honestly? No.
I don’t think we have that capability on such a large scale as the internet.
To know and understand takes intimate and intentional contact. And we simply don’t have the capacity, the energy, or the time it would take to support that contact with more than a few people.
Instead of focusing on our immediate surroundings and the few people we are in contact with on a regular basis, we spread our attention all over the world and we lose something important. Connection with the people we really should be loving.
As much as we think we know and understand the people we see through their art forms, the people we interact with online, we don’t really. We know what they show us.
But that’s not a bad thing.
My personal philosophy is that there are different levels of understanding, as there are different levels of love and relationship. We simply need to be aware of them and react to them accordingly.
Like I said, I felt like I got to know Asimov and we became good friends while I read about his life through his eyes. And then he died, and I felt so sad, like maybe I should do something to mourn the loss of a friend.
That’s crazy talk. Awareness of what emotion was triggered, what I was relating to, reminded me of the level of understanding and connection I was at and brought me back to reality. It’s the same with social media friends, bloggers, tv personalities, and artists. Yes, I interacted with what they shared with the world, what they wanted to be know for, but I wonder… if I met them, hung out with them, were a part of their lives somehow, would they be the same person I know them as?
I often wonder what people think of me; those that stumble across what I’ve written, old co-workers or acquaintances that see what I’ve shared to my social media accounts. What I’ve found fascinating over the years is the few honest, aware, or reflective friends and family members that will tell me what they think they see in me. And as I get older and more reflective myself, I tend to listen to those accounts more openly instead of vehemently insisting that they “apparently don’t really know anything about me.”
That instinct to be known and understood is why I created this blog. Social media photos, quotes, and selfies just weren’t cutting it for me. I wanted to use more words, think more about what I was trying to say, open up just a little bit more. For some reason, blogging to strangers is much easier for me than talking with people that know me.
Even if you’re not a fan of Asimov’s work, or a science fiction fan in general, I think you might enjoy reading I. Asimov – A Memoir. He was a brilliant and fascinating person, honest and open hearted, and very funny. His memoir sheds light on another kind of human being, a life well lived, a thread in the tapestry of humanity.