Thursday, April 16, 2009

on being known

I LOVE knowing people’s names. I really do. I love it when people know my name, even if I still blush a little when I tell people my full name, or when people give a hearty chuckle when they hear my name. I feel like people know me when they know my name. It makes the world a little smaller, community a little more real. You could go all around town all throughout life without having anyone really know you, and the idea of that forms a pit in my stomach. We are wired to be relational to be with people, to be known. This is why isolation is greatest punishment. We NEED people.

Complex pathways of the brain and regulation of certain functions of our limbic brain makes expulsion from the company of others the cruelest punishment humans can devise. Studies have been done long ago on orphan children, finding that children NEED affection and emotional attention. Feed and clothe a human infant but deprive him of emotional contact and he will die. We are born with the innate need and desire to be known.

It’s not easy to be known; it requires vulnerability and risk. It’s not always something that comes easy. We hide ourselves for fear of truly being known and on the other end of the spectrum we have within us a deep desire to be known. We need it but we fear it. What does one do with that? I find myself hiding myself away at times for fear that people won’t like the real me and trying to be vulnerable hoping that people will like the real me, so much of life is lived somewhere in the space between.

I value community and that place where everyone knows my name. I like feeling at home with people. Take for example, my place of work, at the coffee shop; someone can come in everyday and we quickly stack up fleeting moments of interaction and all the while have no idea who the other is, but one day, a moment is taken to ask the name of the other. Once names are exchanged, it’s a whole new interaction as if the name is your “in” this allows you to ask questions, see who the other is. At least this has been the case with me, maybe I am a little nosy or curious, but I can’t help it. For me, it has that feeling of “yeah, we go WAY back.” Like an old friend. And even though that’s not the case, I like that feeling of seeing an old friend when they walk in the door.

I like going for a run in the neighborhood and passing my favorite old couple on the street with a smile and a wink. Or running into Steve who is giving his son a pep-talk on how to ride a bike even if it’s scary, or passing Lee and his co-worker out for a run along the riverfront. It’s the hellos I’m after, the community, the recognition of knowing and recognizing the we are all tied to one another.

We are all fellow travelers in this life. We’re all in this together.


Christina said...

Shannon -
Thank you for sharing this timely reminder as I struggle with wanting to be known and hiding at the same time.

karyn said...

I feel like I try write some incarnation of this blog all of the time, and here you've captured it brilliantly. It's so easy to become fascinated by the psychology of knowing and being known. I love what you've written here, and I agree... I'm always so hungry for that sense of community, the feeling of identity it brings, the "hey, it's you!" happy moments.

For the record, I feel you, and I totally know your name. :)

I am Kate Maxwell said...