March 11, 2005

History, someone once told me, is written by those who can afford the ink.


Actually, history is constantly rewritten in the interpretations of those looking back and writing it, but ultimately the facts never change. Facts are facts: sometimes you know them at the time, sometimes you don’t; sometimes you learn them later, and sometimes you never do.


Relationships are the same way. They simply are, but are open to the interpretation of the participants and those around it. The facts do not change, and yet a relationship seems in constant flux of “fact.”


One would think that the truest view of a relationship would not be from those within it, but from someone outside it. But then the argument could be made along the old scientific premise — and I can’t remember who it was that made this obvious observation — that the observer changes the observed by observing — thus, the outsider’s interpretation is altered by their own relationship with the main participants.


When I was younger I used to play with magnets. I still do sometimes. Magnets are great toys but they also get one thinking. You do not “see” polarity. There is nothing tangible to grasp in the magic of opposites attracting and the like repelling. Magnets push away and pull towards and flip this way and that, clacking together and shooting away and out of one’s hand. Sometimes they will snap together and painfully catch a bit of skin.


They’re a good precursor to observing human behavior. You cannot “see” what makes a relationship happen, and sometimes a relationship simply doesn’t make sense. Maybe one time it did, or didn’t. Observing your parents can reveal exasperation, happiness, anger, drifts and darts hidden in smiles, but also the clacking noise of attraction.


Everything is relative. Galileo understood that absolute motion is unobservable. A relationship always in motion cannot be defined. Only the relative motion between two objects has any meaning.


Similarly, one’s eyes responds only to light and dark. The value of color is perceived only in its relation to the colors around it, thus a person is unique in how they interact with others, or paradoxically, how they blend in.


Contentment is the same way. We consider ourselves satisfied only when compared to some other condition. We only realize our good health when we are sick, and only recognize our strengths when faced with our weaknesses or failure. A win has little value if you’ve never lost, for example, and likewise, you may never know what you had until it’s gone.


How one perceives the dance affects how one dances. Duende: “to have a certain magic.”


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