Opaque minds

Those who think they know others are often fooled because people don’t say what they really think. People who think they know themselves are always fooled because they want to be better than they are. I knew a man who never slept. Otherwise, he was fairly normal, so you wouldn’t know unless he told you. I knew a man who harbored a grudge that was so deep and brutal that he could never act on it. I knew a woman who was strange but we didn’t know why. Was she coping with a huge loss? If you were a really good friend, you could be told a backstory, but you would have no way to verify it. People are not as easy to read as characters in a melodrama. In real life, people usually underact. You can stare at them all you like, but you’ll never be able to read their minds. You can’t really see through a mirror. Minds are houses of mirrors. When you go in to look for yourself, you only see distorted reflections. The critical observer is watched by the passionate lover, who’s watched by the animal lover, who’s watched by the circus clown, by a reflection of your teacher from the third grade, by the boy who kicked his neighbor’s cat. Because the chain of observers has no end, it’s rare that anyone can tell others who they really are. We live in a paradise in which identity is variable, uncertain. You could be a genius or a fool.