Each of us is a individual; none of us can perfectly understand another. We can at times barely understand our own past selves --- as when we smack ourselves on the forehead and lament, "Why did I do that? How could I have been so stupid?"

But on the other hand, we share a vast amount of common experience with one another as we grow from infancy, learn language(s), perceive nature, interact with our fellow creatures, and develop mental models of how diverse people act and react. Different races, different sexes, different cultures all still have in common a huge base of mutually observed and experienced phenomena.

In the context of literature, Douglas Hofstadter writes (Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language, 1998, p. 250):

All readings are partial and approximate, and we must content ourselves with whatever joy and insight we can derive from deep ideas rendered clearly in beautiful language, knowing that our derivative response and the author's original version will never be perfectly aligned.

The same holds throughout life: we can share ideas and emotions with one another, quite effectively, while acknowledging that absolute agreement between internal states is always out of reach. The moments when alignment is best, as in "... the marriage of true minds...", perhaps correspond to the times when we feel ourselves in the presence of love in its purest form.

Sunday, May 09, 1999 at 20:36:34 (EDT) = 1999-05-09

TopicPhilosophy - TopicLife - TopicLanguage

(correlates: LoveAndMarriage, CriminalBehavior, BooksToConsider, ...)

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