I just finished reading The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012). It is set in North Korea and it explores the ways people are able to hold onto their humanity even having experienced the most brutal and severe conditions over years. It is a society where people regularly denounce each other for a range of things including having unpatriotic thoughts.  Our protagonist comes to learn the meaning of intimacy as “when two people share everything, when there are no secrets between them.” The concept astonishes him and he is drawn to have his own experience of it. Near the end of the book, just before he is to have his memory wiped, he explains to his torturer: “It turned out to be easy. You tell someone everything, the good, the bad, what makes you look strong and what’s shameful as well. If you killed your wife’s husband, you must tell her. If someone tried to man-attack you , you must tell that, too. I told you everything, as best as I was able. I may not know who I am. But the actress is free. I’m not sure I understand freedom, but I’ve felt it and she now has it too.”  Perhaps intimacy does bring the freedom of having been beheld, of having been seen for who and all you really are. An experience worth pursuing.

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