It’s notoriously hard to know someone. Not to know their birthday, what they like, what they don’t like, what they think and what they feel. But to know someone. To perceive and understand their very character.
There is a few ways to get a glimpse of this essence. You can observe them when they’re exposed to high levels of stress and challenge. You can see what they do during periods of complete and utter relaxation. You can watch how they deal with information that runs counter to their beliefs. You can witness how they respond to uncertainty and fear. You can check to see if their words align with their actions. You can monitor their relationships with and reactions to different types of people: watch them with family, with friends, with children, with strangers. You can see how they act around animals, and what they do when they’re given an abundance of time, money or power. Or what they do when they have none of those things.
But all of this takes time. There’s no way to truly know a person that doesn’t take a while.
I suppose, in the end, you come to know a person by the decisions they make and the actions they take, not one time, but repeatedly. Yet, not all decisions and actions are created equal. See, the only decisions and actions that can properly be an indication of a person’s essence, their character, are the ones that are made without self-consciousness.
When an action or decision isn’t tainted by consideration for it’s effect on an audience, it can be considered pure. It can be viewed as a distillation, or an extension, of a person’s character.
And if you’re lucky enough to witness pure actions or decisions—they don’t come around very often—multiple times, from different people, you realise something:
Humans beings are most beautiful, and most ugly, when they escape self-consciousness.
When we act or decide without concern for how others perceive us, we exhibit the best and the worst of ourselves. It is these moments in which we show our courage and our cowardice, our love and our meanness, our selfishness and our selflessness, our smallness and our greatness of spirit.