The other day I was reading through the typescript of the novel I wrote about my university life, finished a few years after I graduated:
it was called “A Degree Without Honour“.
I had some astonishing shafts of self-knowledge from it… things I was entirely unconscious of whilst writing it. I was trying to see what I could learn from it, though I admit I meant initially to pick out a passage which might help in my current novel.
But then the ms had to be put away in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet again – I could bear only so much of delving into the past like that!
Anyone reading an old journal, or looking through old photos, might feel the same.
The sometimes unwelcome light of self-knowledge, in extreme cases, may make us feel like the tormented figure in the famous painting “The Scream” by Edvard Munch.
“The Scream” is uncomfortable viewing. Through his art, Munch’s fascination with self-image, and obsessive self-expression are themes that still resonate today.
It occurred to me, that humans desire more than anything else, “to be known”. The current passion “to become a celebrity” and for social networking are just two of the many contemporary phenomena that express this.
But we can bear only so much knowledge – either of ourselves, or of others.
As I read in a recent article on “The Scream” from the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, we seek “an identity that gives us a unique sense of belonging and a connection to others. Knowing this, in modern life, truly sets us free.”