So here’s the thing, when you first meet someone you don’t actually know them. You can form an impression of what they might be like, or who you think they are, but it’s with time that they become a fluid object in your mind.

I’ve wrestled with this idea for a long time now, and doubtless there’s a philosopher or thinker that someone can simply refer me to. But, in the meantime, bare with me.

The way I’ve tried to describe in the past is that as you get to know someone they become “transparent”. Not transparent in the ghostly sense, but transparent in that their actions are more easily understood. I know this is something of a bastardisation of the conventional use of the adjective transparent, but give me a moment to establish some meaning.

When you first meet a person they’re really only a shell. There’s the person in front of you, and while you might think you understand how and why they behave the way they do, at best you’re making a guess. This might be a experienced guess, the person could strongly resemble someone you know, or a type of person you’ve met many times. It could also be a guess based on prejudice, perhaps you’ve got a thing about Carnie Folk, or midgets in general. At best though these are impressions, actually knowing a person comes with time.

Naturally you could just describe this as “being friends”, but that doesn’t really capture the depth of understanding really knowing someone well conveys. There can be people you’ve know for many years, and you don’t really know them as well as someone you’ve know for weeks. Transparency isn’t about outward expressions of friendship so much as a way of understanding someone, and feeling like you can see through their actions. That feeling that all their little foibles and mannerisms are understood, and that they themselves, and not the facade we all create for ourselves, is laid bare.

And what I wonder about is how to describe that transparency, and what underlies it. Is it just “the vibe of the thing”? Or is it the depth of experience (say a near-death experience, or going on one of those annoying “confidence-building” things that just teach people to hate the instructors)? Or is it just some ephemeral sense that you derive from someone else?

And how the hell would you translate that into a relationship like that between a writer and their readers? What is it that makes people feel close to someone they’ve never really met, but only shared ideas with?

The big questions people, and we need answers, pronto.

Advertisements