you can only know them

For men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they were born, the city apartment or the farm in which they learnt to walk, the games they played as children, the old wives’ tales they overheard, the food they ate, the schools they attended, the sports they followed, the poets they read, and the God they believed in. It is all these things that have made them what they are and these are things that you can’t come to know by hearsay, you can only know them if you have lived them. You can only know them if you are them. ~W.Somerset Maugham, ‘The Razor’s Edge’

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4 thoughts on “you can only know them

  1. This is the historian in me speaking, but this is the kind of thing a novelist would say. The only necessary conclusion from this kind of reasoning is that you can only know them the way they know them if you are them. You can know them in different ways, you can reconstruct them, you can get to know others who knew them, etc., etc. There are many ways to know something.

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    1. and there are those who should know them b/c they share all the things mentioned in the quote, and yet they don’t know them at all. I like the sentiment in relation to not really ‘knowing’ unless you’ve lived it yourself, but I agree that it’s a flowery thought 🙂

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      1. I’m a mild Maugham fan (Of Human Bondage), but I couldn’t figure out what he really meant. What he trying to say that one never really knows what another person thinks / knows is, as you deduce?

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