“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

Love of Wisdom

To you,

As long as we’ve known each other, even intimately at least for brief episodes, there seems to remain something hidden between us. It is not something so simple as a secret kept by one of us from the other, but rather seems to be something we share but are unwilling or unable to recognize and articulate. Putting the difficult question of what exactly it is that is hidden aside for a moment, I think it is important to understand just why it seems so difficult to reveal to begin with. It all has to do with what we mean by “knowing,” with what it means to know somebody. There are at least two ways to know someone: knowing ‘about’ them and knowing ‘with’ them. Knowing about someone is cheap and superficial; it is based merely on a collection of facts I observe or am told. You have brown hair, brown eyes, live with your sister and enjoy drawing. These are things that anyone could find out about you. It takes no special relationship between the knower and the known to garner such knowledge, and in fact it pays for the two to remain at a distance so that the facts are not distorted. Knowing with someone, on the other hand, is expensive and demands an intimacy between knower and known not found when knowledge merely wishes to know about its object. Knowing with requires such intimacy, in fact, that we can no longer separate knowledge from its object: the knower and the known become one and the same. What formerly was apprehended at a distance is now felt immediately, because it has become of the same essence as its object. So the difficulty, then, which has prevented this hidden thing between us from being revealed, seems to stem from our desire to know about one another what we can only know with each other. To know about each other is all too easy because it requires no commitment, no risk on the part of the knower. You can stand back and remain as you are, just taking in the other person as though you were watching an actor on stage from the audience. But knowing with is only possible after the barrier erected between audience and actor has been demolished and the two have agreed to act together, to participate with one another in the unfolding of a new story, this time without one remaining but a spectator.

This all sounds too philosophical, though. It is not as complicated as all that. What is hidden is actually quite obvious once I’ve mustered the guts to say it. All I really want to say is that knowing about you is not enough; I need to love you.








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