Secret – adjective.
1. kept from knowledge or view
2. marked by the habit of discretion
3. working with hidden aims or methods
4. not acknowledged
5. conducted in secret
What is it about a secret that fortifies us against the mundane? Against adversity?
Why do secrets have this effect even if they are mundane or adversarial in nature?
Children on the playground share secrets to forge close friendships. Mutually assured destruction is how they express intimacy. A child believes that if you know someone’s secrets, you know them. Even now, I meet people who believe this.
As adults, we understand that secrets are merely truths. A lie cannot be a secret; the secret is the truth that makes the lie such.
Mostly, I do not have secrets. I have situationally appropriate truths, and situationally inappropriate truths.
But are we the secrets we keep? Or are we the truths that we share, strategically, for our own gain?
I met someone who revealed all of their secrets very quickly, because they thought that this would make me see them. They perhaps believed that if I saw them, I would love them. The truth is that because I saw them, I never would love them. I don’t think this was a unique experience.
What makes us think, as a society, that this is acceptable? Scenes in countless movies paint this picture: two meet, instant connection (platonic or otherwise), share an eventful experience and then spill every secret they’ve ever had. “I’ve never told anybody that before,” Summer cooed to Tom. The audience smiles. Tom smiles. Tom is doomed. Summer also probably has told that secret before. Why not?
What is it about a secret that can be so destructive to the one that keeps it, or to one it is kept from? The truth of the secret exists long before it becomes a secret. Is it like cancer, existing, destroying, before you are ever diagnosed? Or is it like chemistry, requiring the combination of the elements of truth and knowledge to incite a violent explosion?
Would we keep secrets from ourselves if we could?
The film I, Robot features a speech given by the character Dr. Lanning called, “The Ghost in the Machine”. In it, he predicts a time when robots would gain some level of sentience, would evolve to have a soul. He says, “one day, they’ll have secrets”. Why, why, why, is a marker of humanity the ability to identify a truth and transform it into a secret? To withhold it in a situation where it is appropriate, relevant, vital? To take the purest of all things, truth, and turn it into a weapon, into armor?
Is the lure of an affair the embrace of another, or is it that the affair is a secret, fortifying? Why do we, as humans, beg to be seen by another (or by others), seen completely and wholly and with no barriers, and then go and create barriers by way of secrets that betrays the people who do see us, completely and wholly? Who would ever want to see us after that?
It is a truth of the human condition that we, none of us, want to be truly replaceable, expendable, unremarkable. We want to feel special. At some point, in some way, for some length of time, we want to feel as though we have some purpose. Is it that a secret gives us this validation more than any talent, accomplishment, or other person ever could?
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