1. You do not exist in a vacuum. A colleague of mine who I admire tremendously once told me, “Oh, how lucky we are that we share this world with other gods.” Do not take that too literally, as I do not mean it to convey any religious sentiment. However, yes! The world is mutually constituted by all of the Beings who have exerted any awareness on it. There might be this part of your experience that you can call exclusively yours because you have the deepest and most limitless access to it, and we can call that “subjectivity” or whatever. But every conscious being has a subjectivity which they have the same power and ownership. And the goal of “communication” is often to exchange awareness through transcribing this private realm into something that can be mutually accessed. So, in this sense, the Other is a huge luxury because he can reveal to us insights and awareness which we have not yet beheld. And there is so much beauty in that. This leads me to my second point…
2. The Other fundamentally changes our experience. As soon as we encounter the Other, we realize that the world is no longer just ours. Sartre describes this experience as a blood clot, where the world was once draining into us and into our awareness, singularly, and now it is draining into some other being. Even our own self, as we had previously known it, is fundamentally changed because there is a face of our body (or a “phantom outline” of our being) presented to the other from a standpoint we cannot access (mirrors and cameras try to weave us around this conflict, but fail…oh, and trust me, I spent years trying). And then we become aware of our presence to the other, which we do not fully understand, and we become exposed and vulnerable. (However, we can realize that we do this same thing to the other, and then it’s a mutual vulnerability.) Secondly, we are aware that the world as we had grasped it is now grasped by another…there is a view of the world that we do not have. The total system of the world is expanded now and we must account for the other’s view in order to figure out the totality of what’s here. (This is often the goal of science and objectivism, as it is based upon a system of language dwelling mostly in the realm between viewers…however it is quintessentially flawed because the viewer tries to take himself out of the equation when making note of his observations.)
3. The Other is not just here to teach you more about yourself. It could be true that the goal of all of this or the least futile pursuit would be to figure out as much as possible about oneself. And it is most definitely true that we can learn a tremendous amount about ourselves from others. But…I’ve been doing that for at least twenty years, and I have to admit that although I still love it…I want more. I want reciprocity. (And, wow, other people are not nearly as open to letting other people know them as I am!)
One of my dearest friends Joey asked me this a few weeks ago: “Lynda, don’t you ever get tired of putting so much energy into figuring out who you are?” My eyes lit up and I screamed “YES!” and then we both laughed. So recently I fell in love with someone and I realized that I don’t just love him for what he does for me…for instance, making me feel beautiful, inspiring me to be the woman I want to be, accepting me despite my numerous flaws, etc. He’s this separate entity, and I love him for who he and what he does with his existence independent of me.
Recently, I have been faced with major struggles in my ability to truly accept myself. I am not fully there yet. However, there are times when I am with others when I stop judging myself and I become totally engaged in the other person. This great vortex opens. I flow freely, accepting myself and the other person without judgment or expectation. I feel like I am a much larger self…my energy expands and there’s this warmth to it. It is one of the most freeing and embracing experiences I have ever had.