(By the way, I highly recommend you take advantage of the free subscription to those daily installments, and furthermore, that you click those links – the blue, underlined text – to see why.)
In that poem, the author relates the story of going to a piano in honor of the death of his friend, Kathleen, to play his half of a “four-hand Mozart”, a duet, he’s spent years trying to learn with Kathleen. He describes the way her half of the piano – the bass – is “sadder now” because the tune has “disappeared into the winter air” and is now “closed for the season.”
The poem concludes with these lines:
“We’ll get it right yet, Kathleen, but only you and I will ever know or hear.”
After reading the poem, I forwarded it with a note to my daughter, Hannah, who also receives the daily installments, which we occasionally enjoy discussing. In the note, I tried to relate the way I was profoundly moved by the poem.
This is what I wrote to Hannah: “I like this poem. The last line is perfect. The knowing, even private, inexpressible knowing – maybe only private inexpressible knowing – means everything to the human soul.”
Strangely, I found those words were articulating something I’ve felt but have never been able to express because I had never understood the feeling in that way before. They were a revelation to me, discovered as I trod through the swamp of thoughts evoked by the poem.
” . . . but only you and I will ever know or hear.”
The knowing. The priviate, inexpressible knowing of a person who has spent years with a friend at the piano, and in her absence is able to hear her, to see her, to envision her movements and reactions and expressions in a way that only the intimacy of closely shared time and space could engender.
In such a knowing, there is the substance that means everything to the human soul. The intimacy of the sharing of such a knowledge, the value of knowing another, and being known by another, which comes to us only through the gift of deep, communal relationships, becomes the substance and driving influence of our lives.
Perhaps it’s too much. Perhaps I’m asking too much of the few words of the last line of a poem not intended to carry such a weight.
Let me make this more about me and less about the human race. Perhaps those words can carry my pitiable, sappy, whiny weight, at least.
I want to be known in such a way that whether in my presence or absence, I am understood; in such a way, that the substance of my life, rather than the shell of my superficially witnessed character, is acknowledged, appreciated, desired, comforted, and needed.
As narcissistic as that may seem, it is nonetheless true. It means everything to me.
Of course these words fail to adequately express the felt power of the private, inexpressible knowing.
To know and be known.
I’m grateful for the few people I know and those who know me, especially in those relationships carrying a deeper, more genuine knowledge. Honestly, though, most of that mutual knowledge is extremely limited.
My mother knows me well enough, in the way that only a mother can, especially when she is also a true friend, but even her knowledge is limited.
My wife knows me best of all, after 22 years of married life, she’s seen and experienced the best and worst of my life’s expression. This is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given, and as far as I can tell, it’s the closest I’ll ever come to being known by another person in the way I mean by this post. But, it breaks my heart to acknowledge that even this knowing is limited.
Things stir inside me, thoughts come and go, and experiences move by so quickly, that my wife would have to be connected to my thoughts in ways humanly impossible to satisfy the deepest heartcry for knowing.
All of this brings me once again to a conclusion that may seem so obvious, but is so often taken for granted in our Christian circles because it seems so obvious:
I need Jesus.
I need to know him, and know that I’m known by him. I need to know he sees and understands all of me, all of the substance of me.
It means everything to me.