Monday, July 16, 2012

(K)no(w) means (K)no(w)

How is it that sometimes we can learn more about a person long after they are gone, than when they were alive? Is it that small talk doesn’t add up to as much as we think it does? Do we really need all of our friends and acquaintances to hand us their personal bio’s to fill in the holes that we can’t get from a day to day, month or month or year to year conversation? And even more, there are some people we will just never know because they have passed away or because this world is just too big, or because they are too famous, too busy, or too important to be bothered. And so we will only know what we know about a person when we read or hear about them (regardless if they are alive or not). And all of our family, friends, and acquaintances that we know (or think we know), well, we will just have to dig a little deeper to fill the holes or wait and be surprised.

In this case, I got to know a person a few weeks ago, which I will never get the chance to meet. My mom and I were driving through sunflower fields, the sun a golden pink, and we were listening to Nora Ephron. Previous to this road trip, I had known little about her, except that she was the magic behind some of my favorite movies–You’ve Got Mail has always been high on my list.  As I have said, we often learn a lot more about a person after they have passed away, and while I didn’t know her personally (she was famous and important), NPR gave me greater insight on her life and work through a special segment that would feature her witty sense of humor, charm, and intelligence. And now, just today, I have finished reading both her books–cover to cover. Listening to Ephron, we could have been related. She could have been the sister that my mother never had. Her writing, her work, and her humor–it all feels so familiar to me. I feel like I know her.

This got me thinking about knowing someone. There are two kinds of “know.” The first is real. You know a person inside and out. You can name their favorite movie; you know their quirks, their likes, dislikes, hopes and dreams. These are the friends and family that know you by name, are people you can call, and hopefully, folks you can depend on. The other kind of “know” is fictional. We have blurred the line of recognizing to knowing. An example: Sometimes I think I know Gwyneth Paltrow. I think this because I know that she makes pizza from a brick oven (at one of her homes) and frequents her gym with 2 and a half hour workouts, and her kid’s names are Apple and Moses. Reality smack in the face: I in fact, DO NOT “know” Gwyneth Paltrow. I merely read about her from time to time. I recognize a few things about her or I “know of" her and somehow my brain stores it away somewhere. Maybe someday I will bump into her and say hi, but this is a big “MAYBE.” I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me.

And finally, there are the people that we do know– inside and out– and (still) learn new things about everyday. My friend passed away a few weeks ago and I am learning so much more about who he was–but I am not learning it from him anymore–I am learning it from others. Sometimes it takes another person to share a story, a time, a place–a memory–for us to know a person. Just as we learn about ourselves through others, we learn about others through others. Different people form different relationships and experiences with one another, and it is truly a special gift when we can learn about someone through someone else. And when you think about it that is the most powerful way that we live on–we live on through others–through story telling.

With that in mind I will leave you with the words of Nora Ephron herself, “Here are some questions I am constantly noodling over: Do you splurge or do you hoard? Do you live every day as if it's your last, or do you save your money on the chance you'll live twenty more years? Is life too short, or is it going to be too long? Do you work as hard as you can, or do you slow down to smell the roses? And where do carbohydrates fit into all this? Are we really all going to spend our last years avoiding bread, especially now that bread in American is so unbelievable delicious? And what about chocolate?”

This cup is for Mrs. Ephron:  It has been nice getting to know you.

And for the rest of you, I encourage you to go have a cup with someone you know... or don’t know…

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