Knowing Ourselves, Knowing Another

Gabriel: She married me, but was she ever truly mine? What I see now is… I did not know her when we married. I doubt I ever knew her.

Dorcas: Somehow, it seems to be only lovers who ever say such things. As if we should, as if we are entitled to know all of one another. Gabriel, there are days when I do not know myself. Not so long ago, you adored this woman, and held her to be a lodestar of wonder. Now you consider her to be all shadows and deceit. Perhaps you might find some peace if you accept she was neither. She was human. And so are you. You may not be ready to forgive her yet, but perhaps you can have a little mercy on yourself. Just for today.

I recently fell in love with a little BBC show called Lark Rise to Candleford. And if you’ve seen it, you know you can’t get through an episode without a little wit and wisdom from postmistress Dorcas Lane. This little conversation (above) that she had with the man who ran her forge was one of many that gave me the chills.

My favorite line is “There are days when I don’t know myself.” I think I’d amend that to “there are months when I don’t know myself.”

I know for certain that you can know someone for a decade – or even more – and at some point, be shocked by the decisions they make. Or to feel that you never knew them, at all. And I know that I can’t always predict myself, my capabilities, or know what I really want, where I’m going, what I’m doing… Sometimes, all of that is just as much a mystery to me as other people.

Can you know another person? Can you know yourself?

When I think of these questions, I think of the Shapeshifter archetype – an archetype I’ve been playing with very seriously for the past year or so. Let’s take it at its most literal (if not fantastical) level: If you are a werewolf, which are you? The wolf or the man? Can you ever really know? Sure, the stories say it’s a man who transforms into a wolf, but who’s to say that’s not just an ethnocentric perspective? If the wolves were telling the story, wouldn’t they say it’s a wolf who turns into a man? In which case, can Werewolf ever truly know himself?

I think Shapeshifter asks us this question – can we know ourselves? – but also asks us for willingness to explore. To shift. To live in a world where we can’t always know ourselves or one another. There’s a touch of the underworld there – moving into and out of a phantom world where everything is behind a veil.

Can you know another person? Can you know yourself?