We Can’t Know It Till We Know It

Remember when you were a little kid and a grown-up would exclaim “Don’t touch that! You’ll get burnt!” as you ignorantly – albeit innocently – rushed up to touch an extreme heat source? But you touched it anyway? And then understood what getting “burnt” actually felt like.

In a painful instant, you ‘got it’.

People who care about you will always try to protect you – even from yourself – but chances are you’re only going to truly ‘get it’ after the fact. Because until you actually experience what they’re trying to insulate you from, you won’t fully understand or appreciate the raw sensation, magnitude and the real consequences of it all.

Life is full of these lessons.

Some pretty harmless. Others less so.

Later you’ll discover that singeing your fingers on a naked flame or lightbulb is a breeze compared with say, learning to deal with a break-up or the loss of a loved one.

Try though they may (and must), nobody can fully prepare you for these moments.

And even when they do try to forewarn and forearm you, it’s likely that most of what they’ll say will come across as mere words.

Abstract, slightly foreign concepts.

You see we can’t know what it really feels like till it happens to us.

Till we’ve been through it.

Until then we can only approximate or suppose the feeling. Our approach is a more intellectual one. We say things like “It must be awful” or “I can only imagine what you’re going through.”

Language can be such a convenient and dispassionate tool that way. We can avail ourselves of words without really feeling their meaning and weight. A wealth of expressions and phrases at our disposal to insulate us from life’s raw, less pleasant emotions.

But that’s understandable.

Because we can’t know it, till we know it.

I’d like to think that we all arrive there though – albeit at different times and in different ways.

You too, Dear Young Person.

It’s in our nature to be drawn to the light.

And I have no doubt that you’ll want to rush up to it.

Though I wish for you to not get too badly burnt.

Author: Imraan Vagar

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  1. I still have the scar to prove that burn Imraan – when I was a little toddler. Although the photo of my hand being wrapped up in band aid is adorable, at the time, the scar was not. As you mention, that lesson will be learnt forever.

    When it comes to issues of the heart and life, this simple, yet complicated lesson could not be more pertinent. Your close friends warn you, and warn you, and warn you, yet somehow you get so caught up in the false fairy tale of the grandeur you believe you are in, you ignore these warnings. When you are all grown up, there is no physical scar to remind you of that lesson, nor any band aid to help you heal. It is just yourself, and the reality check of the lesson that has been thrust upon you.

    Though some close friends act as band aid, they never completely wrap around your scar.

    I am glad that you mention, “You never know, until you know”. How relevant, and how accurate -That makes a lot of sense, and I personally never thought of it that way. But now I know, and it helps – It helps a lot. Thanks for the clear insight.

    My favourite blog, of all time – Dear Young Person – I think your guidance and your words has allowed for the burn to subside, finally…

    Mayuur H.

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  2. The only thing that separates those who “Imagine what someone is going through” versus those that are facing their experience, is fear (whether lesser or great). Once it happens, one is experiencing and accepting – whether we want to or not.

    As for burning one’s fingers, I have personally tried to defy the laws of physics on numerous occasions, because I had to burn my fingers more than once – on the same stove! Delightful post Imraan, and always so spot on.

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  3. Never a truer word and all that..

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  4. Yeah !… life is like riding a bicycle. You will not fall unless you stop pedaling!!…

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  5. A remarkable blog! I gave your link to a friend who was doing a little research on this topic.

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  6. Excellent read! I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on something similar. And he just bought me lunch since I found it for him!:-) Therefore let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

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  1. Max - I saw someone talking about this on Tumblr and linked to it. So true!

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