"You never knew any of them, did you?"

"No. Or, if I did, I don't remember them."

"That's a shame."

"Would you tell me about them?"


"I want to love them as you did."

"I am not sure I can."

"Why not? You knew them, didn't you?"

"Yes, I knew them."

"Tell me what you knew about them that made you love

"One can never tell of another in such a way as to do
them justice. Not after they are gone, for sure.
There are just too many variables in every man to let
him be easily described to one who never met him."

"I don't understand."

"Well, let me try to explain. For instance, have you
ever seen a picture of yourself?"

"Yes, many times."

"Do you remember the first one you ever saw?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Did it look like you thought it should?"

"How do you mean?"

"I mean when you saw it, were you surprised at the
way you looked?"

"Yes, in some ways."

"Did it look like you thought you looked before you
saw it?"

"No, it didn't."

"That's the role perspective plays. It looked like
you look, it could look no other way; but from your
perspective you weren't aware of looking like that.

"I think so."

"Tell me now exactly how you looked in that picture."

"I don't know how."

"Just tell me."

"My eyes were like this..."

"No, just tell me - don't show me by pointing to the
real thing. The ones of whom you are asking cannot be
pointed to - they are gone."

"I cannot."

"Do you remember the first time you ever heard your
own voice on a tape recorder?"


"Did it sound right to you?"

"No - I didn't like it at all."

"That's perspective again. You sounded like the tape
sounded, but you had never heard yourself sound like
that before so it was different to you. See?"


"Describe what your voice sounded like on that tape."

"Like Grandma, a little, I guess."

"Was it really like Grandma? How so?"

"I guess I can't describe it. I lack the points of

"Have you ever seen yourself in a mirror?"


"But that was different from looking at the picture,
wasn't it?"


"Do you ever hear yourself when you speak?"

"I suppose."

"But that was different from the tape?"


"Just as you perceive yourself in one way only, so
you perceive others. You see everyone as you see
them. No one else sees them just like you do. I do
the same. In fact, everyone is like that. See?"

"I guess."

"Go back to the mirror again. If you want to see
yourself in the mirror in the best way, you can. Years
of looking at yourself has trained you to know how to
stand and from which angle to look."

"I guess I never thought about it."

"If you try, you can look your best - to yourself.
If you try, you can even embarrass yourself. Stand
off to one side, show a part of yourself that bothers
you, tilt your head in an awkward way."

"I think I know what you are saying, but what does
that have to do with telling me about those I never

"Perspective. They were, to me, as I perceived them
to be - right or wrong. I may not have seen them as
they truly were, and I may have. Even if I have
properly perceived them, I may not know how to
properly describe them. And, should I know how to
properly describe them, you may not be able to take
what I say and properly perceive it."

"I don't understand."

"OK, let's try this. Do you know what 'blue' is?"


"If I told you to bring me a blue shirt, you would
know what to look for?"


"Suppose that I am blind."


"Further suppose that I have never seen - blind from


"Explain 'blue' to me."

"Well, I can't."

"Compare it to something for me. Something I'll
understand, having never seen anything."

"I... well... I can't."


"There's no way I can. You don't have the ability to
see things like I do, and I don't have the ability to
make you understand."

"Suppose that I had always lived on a mountain in the
middle of a range of mountains that extended for as
far as the eye could see."


"Convince me that flatlands exist."

"That wouldn't be hard."

"OK, then do it."

"There are flatlands. I have seen them. They are
vast and fertile."

"Prove it. You have proved nothing, you merely
asserted their existence."

"I could take you to them."

"Suppose that I cannot go - just as you cannot go
back and see those now dead."

"I see what you mean."

"You might get me to acknowledge the existence of
'blue' or of flatlands, but could you ever know for
sure that I really understood what 'blue' was if I was
blind, or what 'flatlands' were if I could not go and
see them?"

"No, I guess not."

"How tall is tall?"

"I don't know."

"If I said that so-and-so was short, how tall would
she be?"

"I don't know."

"If I said that it was hot outside, what would the
temperature be?"

"I don't know. All of those questions require more
information than I have."

"In that same way, I am not sure that I can give you
the knowledge of those now dead that you seek. So
much of a man goes unnoticed even by those closest to
him. Those unnoticed or unrecalled items are
necessary to properly understand a man. I may not be
able to remember enough to explain my affection for
someone. That does them an injustice. Do you see?"

"I think so."


"Will you tell me anyway?"

"Sure. Why not?"

H. L. Gradowith


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