Two minds as one

Dorothea muses on the undesirability of being able to mind-read people, including your partner. She talks about the act of conscious sharing of thought (rather than having it automatically) having real value, which is a point to not be denied. However, she then goes on to talk about how she doesn’t agree with “the suggested near-identity of two souls able to communicate without words”. I think that that’s making a wrong assumption; that in order to know what someone’s thinking, you have to think like them; in essence, that no-one can predict another’s thoughts, but instead predict what they themselves would do and know that the other person would do the same. I’m not at all convinced about that. Dorothea goes on to ask

Who really wants to marry the reflection in their mirror? More to the point, who wants to marry someone who wants to marry the reflection in their mirror?

She herself admits that this is overstating the case, but I really do not believe that you need to be someone’s reflection to share their thoughts. Otherwise, all good policemen would be criminals and serial killers, and all good goalkeepers would be centre forwards. Doesn’t work like that. I don’t know how much of mind-reading is pure mechanics; induction based on past action, in that you know what that person did in a hundred previous similar situations, and so they’ll likely do the same thing again. I’m inclined to downplay that aspect, though; anyone with a psychic telephone to someone else can tell you that every now and again you can pick random truths about said other person out of the air, with no previous backup, and entirely unlike what you yourself would do. It seems to me to not be a mere reflection but instead understanding and acceptance of the way their mind works, which (to my mind, at least) is a goal to aim towards if it can be achieved. It doesn’t necessarily have to be lovers and spouses, either. This sort of thing works with friends and family too, for some.

This concept exists in the same sort of area as something Chesterton once said: “A man’s friend likes him but leaves him as he is”. Chesterton himself was part of a group of great friends that also included George Bernard Shaw and Hilaire Belloc; men who almost entirely disagreed with him on everything on which it was possible to disagree, but nonetheless enjoyed a rich friendship with him. I’ll bet that they were able to predict to some extent the direction of the thought of the others, despite being almost entirely unalike, and without reducing the other person’s thought to a caricature.

Chesteron did also go on to say that “a man’s wife loves him and is always trying to turn him into somebody else”, which points to a view of friends as possibly closer than spouses. Interesting dichotomy, there, perhaps; is a true meeting of minds more intellectually or emotionally stimulating? Is the ideal to have both?

Look for a self-help book from me which will earn me millions, just as soon as I work out the answer to this. One of the perennial questions for humanity to answer, I imagine, along with “What is it, to live?”.

Oh, and “What were Billie-Joe MacAllister and the girl throwing off the Tallahatchie bridge?”

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