September 5, 2008
One of my favorite thoughts, and I think it came from a movie, is that the reason to get married is to have a witness to your life. It’s the sort of idea that might not strike you immediately as brilliant, but over time it unfolds.
Another great quote along those same lines – and I wish I knew who said it – goes something like “You’re not a writer until a writer tells you you’re a writer.” I had that experience when Dilbert was first accepted for syndication, and my editor told me I was a cartoonist. Until that moment, I wasn’t. Literally the moment she told me I was a cartoonist, the quality of my drawing improved about 30%.
I think this is the same reason little kids continuously chirp “Mommy, look at me! Look at me!” They are struggling to get a witness, to know they exist.
It’s nice to think that you can be your own person, true and accountable to no one but yourself, but I don’t think life works that way. We are what other people allow us to be. We exist more in their perceptions than in our own, if you had some way to add it all up and compare.
I was thinking of this as I finished a first draft of my survey of economists. (Yes, you will see it. I need to get it right.) I sent it to my friend whose opinion I value, asking for some comments. As I sent it, I realized my writing doesn’t fully exist until he comments. It lives in some sort of Schroedinger’s cat half-state. If he likes it, then it becomes real. If not, it will quickly seem as though it never existed. I will rewrite from scratch.
The key to life is picking the right witnesses. Thanks for being mine.