Ex Die in DIEM

by duncan mcnicholl

Understanding

It’s a big world, and it’s full of people. 510,072,000 square kilometres, and seven point four billion persons, respectively and roughly. But that’s never what we mean when we say that it’s a big world, or a small world, or a strange world. We’re always talking from our personal experience of the world, and that experience is different for each and every one of us.

There are shared experiences, of course: working together, or learning together, or spending holidays together. In many ways, a family is a group of people with shared experiences, who have spent time together and who know how the rest of the group think and what each has been through. That fluid definition explains how someone might feel like they have a sister even though their mother had only boys, or how a family unit can change and grow over time, absorbing and incorporating beloved additions. As Large puts it in Garden State,

Maybe that’s all a family really is: a group of people who miss the same imaginary place.

But from the time you leave for school, even your family don’t know you completely: the only person who has taken your journey is you, and you’re the one person who gets every little part. Of course, it’s often the case that there’s someone out there who will understand an individual piece: my school friends might be unsurprised to find me listening to Avril Lavigne on the bus home, and my colleagues from when I lived in Cambridge know why my Cards Against Humanity deck includes a card just marked “Karen Lonsdale”.

And if you’re very lucky, there might be someone with whom you share everything: not just the experiences of the present and the hopes of the future, but slowly and surely all the nooks and crannies of your past: the events, the books, the films, the music and the conversations. This sharing of the whole of yourself is one of the most profound experiences you can have, and upon realising that you can even share the profundity. And so the feeling grows.

Love is always about understanding, even if sometimes it’s just about having faith that understanding will come with time.