She did not know what he had done, when he heard that Andrew was killed, but still she felt it in him all the same. They only mumbled at each other on staircases; they looked up at the sky and said it will be fine or it won't be fine. But this was one way of knowing people, she thought: to know the outline, not the detail, to sit in one's garden and look at the slopes of a hill running purple down into the distant heather. She knew him in that way. She knew that he had changed somehow. She had never read a line of his poetry. She thought that she knew how it went though, slowly and sonorously. It was seasoned and mellow. It was about the desert and the camel. It was about the palm tree and the sunset. It was extremely impersonal; it said something about death; it said very little about love.
To The Lighthouse, (first published 1928) Chapter 11, Part Three: The Lighthouse.
When I was reading this, even without knowing how or why, I felt that this was important. I felt that there was something vital in this that I must grasp at all costs. I believe that I have one finger around it now. Hopefully by the end of my life my whole fist will encircle it.
I think that this is the way with me a lot of the time. Knowing someone by the outline - assuming how the rest of them will follow. And then it also occured to me that this is probably how many people see me, and their friends, and so many other people. Obviously and trying hard to be unchliched, it is the simplest thing in the world to get the 'gist' of someone. Get the general idea. Or not even that. Get a glimpse of an idea. And then like a colour by numbers, we fill in the rest of that person with our imagination. I can't tell you that you know what I mean, but I would imagine that a lot of people do.
With the rest of the person, we add whatever seems fitting. Whats-his-face said this and then did that, so I think that they are... It's a kind of knowing, but it's a kind of guessing, and of course the person gets no credit for personality. We fixed them up with a disposition that is, chances are, ridiculously wrong.
I think that the point that I'm trying or failing to make is not that you shouldn't do this. I think that it happens without our consent. I think it's more along the lines of being open. That is chliched, isn't it? Uggh. Not too much I can fix about that.