I am worried about this concept of 'being understood'. It's all anybody wants these days, and it can't be healthy. Whatever happened to mystique?
I don't want to be understood. For example: I'd like a friend to think I was funny. I don't need them speculating that I grew up in a household of competitive proto-humorists, that I fear I'm not clever enough to make serious points, that I suffer from that irritating social neurosis where I feel responsible for filling awkward silences. I'd rather they just laughed.
Besides, a comprehensible personality is surely a bad thing. If you can be summed up in a paragraph, there's something wrong with you. Shakespeare's greatness lies in the incomprehensibility of his characters. Why does Hamlet pretend to be mad? Why is Iago so jealous? Why does Lear issue a 'love test'? In the original source materials, Hamlet is nine years old, Iago wants Desdemona and there is no love test. Shakespeare is deliberately introducing gaps and mysteries to suggest a world beyond the play. Real people are not immediately explicable. If Desdemona 'understood' Hamlet, he would be pointless.
Nevertheless, people these days want a summed-up personality like they want an iPod and Ugh Boots. The holy grail is a snappy account of 'Who I am' in a five-minute audition tape for Big Brother. Poor old David Hume wasted all those years explaining that there is no such thing as personal identity, that the mind is 'nothing but a collection of different perceptions, succeeding one another with inconceivable rapidity in a perpetual flux and movement'. Three centuries later, everybody is setting off to 'find themselves' in therapy or on foreign holidays. It's like looking for a yeti. Turn back, travellers, before it's too late! There's nothing out there but a blizzard.
Have you noticed how often you hear the words 'That's just me'? It's a reality TV catchphrase. 'I like to muck about - that's just me'. It isn't you, it's simply the way you're behaving. Whence this desire for constant self-assertion?
The more we yearn to sum ourselves up, the more information we put out there and, of course, the more fragmented 'we' become. Dig around the human psyche a bit deeper and you won't find 'identity'; at most, you'll find motives. Motives which are better left unspoken if you want a decent life anyway.
The last thing I want is for people to say, 'Ah, I see you are over-compensating for the fact that you were a lonely teenager and didn't get a driver's licence till you were 21.'
But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please let me be misunderstood.
- Apologies to The Animals