Jiddu Krishnamurti On Images & Relationships
‘All our relationships are really imaginary’, writes Krishnamurti in his collection of talks titled Freedom from the Known. ‘That is’, he continues, they are ‘based on an image formed by thought’.
According to Krishnamurti, we rarely see each other as we are now. We have memories of what someone likes and dislikes, things they have said to us and done to us, how they have moved us or failed us. We bundle these collection of memories, feelings, and intuitions about a person and say that is who they are. But this is, at most, who they were. Of course, who we are is based off who we were. But, this is almost irrelevant. To the extent that we see the person in the present through what they were in the past, we are engaging them through an image of them, rather than as they are, right now.
Naturally we don’t see each other at all as we actually are. What we see is the images we have formed about each other.
These images, he notes, are what ‘prevent us from being in contact’ with each other and that is where problems arise; because, people change.
When I say I know you, I mean I knew you yesterday. I do not know you actually ‘now’. All I know is an image of you. That image is put together by what you have said in praise of me or to insult me, what you have done to me – it is put together by all the memories I have of you – and your image of me is put together in the same way, and it is those images which have relationship and which prevent us from really communing with each other.
Imagine a scenario. You have been with your partner for years. When you first met them, you were very attentive to their every thought, observant of their every movement, thoughtful of their every need. You had no image of them, so you took it upon yourself to be as attentive, observant, thoughtful, and aware as possible. However, the years have passed and you have settled into a routine; routine questions, routine answers, routine offers, routine responses. You stop trying to get to know your partner because you believe you already know them.
But people are always changing. The change that is almost imperceptible from one day to the next takes on enormous proportions over the years. Maybe she now enjoys knitting. Maybe she doesn’t enjoy it but is curious and would like to take it up. Maybe he wants to learn a new language. Maybe, even though he has never shown an interest in it before, he would like to travel. You may not notice this. Or if you do, you say to them ‘that’s not like you’ or ‘don’t be silly, you don’t like those kinds of things’. You put them back in their box. Their interests and desires no longer conform to the image you have of them and you refute them. You see what is happening here? What you know is an ‘image’ of who they were, a collection of ideas, feelings, sensations, thoughts and memories of the past. But they are not the past! They are there, standing in front of you, in the present, with present ideas, feelings, sensations and thoughts that you cannot possibly be attentive to if you are living in the past.
The person they are, right now, is not something you can experience if you are constantly living through images of who they were. The image, therefore, interferes with reality. If we are to be in direct contact with anything, whether it be a painting, sunset, or a person, then we must let go of our prejudices, assumptions, and pre-conceived ideas – that is, our ‘images’. Only then will we come into contact with something as it is, and not as it was, or how we imagined it to be.