I read a blog post that my friend Dave Winer wrote. (By the way, go read it or else this post won’t make much sense to you.) At least I consider him my friend. I don’t really know him. We haven’t sat down face to face and talked. But I feel like I know him. I have read his blog for fifteen or twenty years, it’s been long enough that I don’t remember exactly how long. I have benignly stalked him on the internet. I was curious to find out more about this person that wrote so engagingly and had so many interests similar to mind.
I discovered that we were almost the same age. His birthday is a month or so before mine. We grew up in the same era. He grew up in New York, Michigan, and Silicon Valley, as far as I’ve been able to determine from reading his writing and what the bibliographical information that I’ve been able to dig up on him says. On the other hand, I grew up in Paducah, KY, Carbondale, IL and Huntsville, AL. Even so, we apparently have many things in common, e.g. programming, liberal politics, and an interest in communications.
But I don’t really know him. I would like to know him better. But when you get right down to it, nobody ever really knows anyone. The best you can expect is that the people around you know some part of you. We tend to think that people are the same from moment to moment when actually we are constantly evolving, becoming someone else. The person that someone comes to know becomes someone else. Or do they?
I think, I am myself but the very concept of self is questionable. Am I, myself, the same person that I perceived myself to be ten minutes ago? How about an hour ago? A day, a week, a month? Who were all those people? What happened to them? Are they still a part of who I am now? If I forget something that happened to me, do I lose a part of myself? These are profound questions. If I struggle to know myself, how can I expect that anyone else can know me?
When someone writes a kind piece about the aspects of you that they remember, it is to be cherished. They are not eulogizing you. You are not dead yet. They are telling the things that they know about you, the things that you have shown them of the self you were when they knew you. I understand the desire to be known for who you have become. But does that mean you should deny who you have been?
I don’t know what my Facebook followers are going to thing about this post (both of them :-)). Maybe they’ll think a little bit about identity and friendship the way you have incited me to do. Thanks for your presence in the world, the work you do, and the part of you that I have come to know. I can hope for more but I will treasure all that you give us.