If someone’s decisions seems odd or completely understandable to you, they’re probably a no-brainer to them. And even if you think you do understand the motivations and reasons for their decisions or what they do, you probably only know a part of the picture.
Natasha in Tolstoy’s War and Peace is misunderstood, though she had every right, in her mind (the mind that matters) to choose the life she chose. As is Meursault in Camus’ The Outsider, when no can understand, at all, how he can be so cold in the aftermath of his mother’s death.
And as is Charlie Fineman in Reign Over Me, who can’t even bear to think about anything that reminds him of his family or even his life before the day his kids and wife were killed in the 9/11 attacks. To others it is incomprehensible how he could detach himself from people he loved so much (and detach himself from life), but to him, it’s the only thing that makes sense.
We don’t know what is going on in the minds of others, and the dramatic orchestra of emotions and thoughts that simultaneously exist within them at any given time, and especially in times of major decisions or in challenging or traumatic circumstances.
So how can we at least try see what it’s like to be someone else? And to try understand why they do the things they do? For me to understand what’s it is like to be you (and vice versa).
Art, love and conversation.
Those are our only ways inside, at least a little bit, into a person and their mind.