“No one feels another’s grief, no one understands another’s joy. People imagine they can reach one another, in reality they only pass each other by.” -Franz Schubert
Without grief, it is impossible to know when you experience joy. With every great tragedy, new heights are wholly attainable. Contrariwise, to know the greatest pleasure is to have experienced deepest pain. There is no shame in this — the mediocre life is not a life truly lived. Does this mean, however, that every man is an island? Is every emotional experience so profoundly individual, personal and private that none can ever share in the events that shape and mold you? Yes and no.
Yes, in that all things emotional are personal. How deeply we are affected is unique and specific. What brings us sorrow, what causes happiness; these things are sometimes small and inconsequential to others. A sight that is caught, a sound, a smell – it may produce melancholy, or may make you smile. Would it do so to others? Sometimes. Not always and certainly not in the same fashion. Our very perspective is based upon experience and nobody’s experience is identical to another’s. Even a pair of twins treated identically from birth will still have differences in life’s experiences. One will trip and the other won’t. One will catch a smile, the other was looking elsewhere at the time. Such small things, but they still create an impact and over time, perspectives, while perhaps still similar, will never remain identical. So how could anyone possibly ever know your joy or sorrow as intimately as you truly feel it? Even through expressing yourself, you cannot express the history and the unconscious development that creates this emotional reaction sufficient for anyone to truly experience it with you.
So how then can I also say no? Emotion is as contagious as the worst virus. Laughter may invoke a smile. Tears may invoke a furrowed brow or frown. And there are some events so wide-reaching, so encompassing that they affect multiple people at one time. Shared tragedy will never be exactly the same, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a common reaction and a common source. Shared delight can occur with more than one person in the same fashion. Can we expect it to be identical? Never. But it may be found in concert.
Schubert had it right, perhaps, but he also had it fundamentally wrong. It is possible to reach another, if you take the time to cultivate your shared experiences, if you have common joys and sorrows. There is no perfect understanding, perhaps, but nor is there a perfect person. Share your joys, express your sorrows – some may never truly comprehend, but there will be the rare, the few, who look upon you to say, “I get it. I never thought there would be another like me. I understand.” There is no reason not to make the attempt — through song, through word, through smile or tears — to reach another. We are all of the human experience and there is not a one who has never experienced some part of what there is to be found.