I Never Knew You

The Avett Brothers have a song called “I Never Knew You” that has a tendency to worm its way into my brain and not let go for several hours at a time. Since I’m a sharing person, here it is:

Although some of the lyrics are almost nonsensical, the chorus is probably more profound than even intended:

So I guess it's kind of funny how
I loved you so way back when
You say I wouldn't know you now
Well, I didn't even know you then

I’ve thought about those lines a lot, though mainly in the context of people moving on and changing. Then, about a week ago, I was listening to Jordan Peterson’s series on Genesis. In the talk about Genesis chapter 1, he started talking about betrayal, and how Dante considered betrayal to be the deepest level of hell. The whole 2.5 hours is worth listening to, but this particular point can be found right around minute 26. However, it’s what came next that gave me chills (28:07 in the video):

But then, if that trust is betrayed, then all the snakes come forth very, very rapidly. All of you, I suspect, have been betrayed in one way or another. If you’re in a relationship with someone and you trust them, then you make certain assumptions about the past, and you make certain assumptions about the present, and you make certain assumptions about the future, and everything’s stable. You’re standing on solid ground and the chaos—it’s like you’re standing on thin ice. The chaos is hidden; the shark beneath the waves isn’t there. You’re safe; you’re in the lifeboat. But the instant the person betrays you…If you’re in a intimate relationship and the person has an affair, and you find out about it, one moment you’re in one place where everything is secure, because you predicated your perception of the world on the axiom of trust, and the next second—really, the next second—you’re in a completely different place. Not only is that place different right now, but the place you were years ago is different, and the place you’re gonna be in the future years hence is different.

All of that certainty, that strange certainty that you inhabit, can collapse into incredible complexity. If someone betrays you, you think, well, ok, who were you? Because you aren’t who I thought you were, and I thought I knew you. But I didn’t know you at all, and I never knew you. All the things we did together, those weren’t the things that I thought were happening. Something else was happening, and you are someone else, and that means I’m someone else, because I thought I knew what was going on, and clearly I don’t. I’m some sort of blind sucker, or the victim of a psychopath, or someone who’s so naive that they can barely live. I don’t understand anything about human beings, and I don’t understand anything about myself, and I have no idea where I am now. I thought I was at home, but I’m not. I’m in a house, and it’s full of strangers. I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow, or next week, or next year. All of that certainty, that habitable certainty, collapses right back into the potential from which it emerged. That’s a terrifying thing. That’s a journey to the underworld, from a mythological perspective.

Jordan Peterson https://www.jordanbpeterson.com/transcripts/biblical-series-ii/

It makes complete sense. Sure, in the song, there certainly was a growing apart, but the reason that there is such an estrangement is that there was an element of betrayal there as well. It’s no wonder that the singer has no interest in getting back together with the person he’s singing to! Peterson describes the thought process here in paragraphs, but it’s something the song captures in four little lines, which reflect back to the title of the song.

“You say I wouldn’t know you now, but I didn’t even know you then…”

There is, of course, an even more famous occurrence of the phrase “I never knew you,” and that is Matthew 7.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)

In this context, “I never knew you” also fits. In the context of the chapter, there is admonishment toward those who try to use God as a means to their own ends, for their own glory, like ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing. That certainly is betrayal there, isn’t it? To say “I never knew you” lets it be known that as much as others may have been fooled or impressed or dumb about someone’s show of supposed righteousness, it does nothing to fool or impress God.

And while I know that I probably overthink things quite a lot, but it’s interesting to me to see the stained glass and that it looks like they may have been recording in an old church. On one hand, probably totally unintentional, on the other, a very interesting coincidence, if it was.

dore canto 31 white rose

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