I just finished the podcast series, "Missing Richard Simmons" yesterday. I was hooked from the first episode in this fascinating study of a person and those who love him. The series is filled with testimonials of people who tell of feeling 'known' and 'seen' by Richard, who looked at them, wasn't repulsed by their weight, and actually touched them. Simmons often pursued them with weekly calls and emails and even surprise visits to see how their transformation was going. He was a huge force for good because he accepted people for who they were, he actually listened to them without judgment and he gave them a vision for who they could become. And because of this connection that Richard created, his followers felt that they knew him as well. But did they?
In the last two episodes, podcaster and director, Dan Taberski processes the various theories as to why Richard Simmons suddenly disappeared from public life and the vacuous hole his absence created in his followers. What struck me most poignantly was Taberski's closing thoughts about his own journey in the search for this iconic and illusive man. He asked himself the question of why Richard had become so important to him and why Richard's disappearance so painful. Taberski put aside his investigator role and let us in to his more personal struggle of not understanding this man he thought he knew and saying goodbye to Simmons without any real closure.
Listening to this series, I was reminded of a truth about our humanity. We have a deep desire to know and be known. And yet, this desire is also our greatest fear. We so desperately want another person to 'see' us....all of us....and love us anyway. As much as we crave and ache for that, we do everything we can to cover up our flaws, show only our best selves, manage others' perceptions of us. Moments of feeling truly seen and known are rare and yet can be truly life-changing as confirmed by Simmons' fans. One of the most profound descriptions of Adam and Eve, the very first humans, is that they were "naked and unashamed". They related to each other with total freedom even though they were totally exposed....physically and emotionally. It wasn't until later when Sin entered the world, that the need for fig leaves became necessary. All of a sudden they felt naked and thus the need to hide and cover themselves. And since that time humanity has been fashioning all sorts of fig leaves to disguise our insecurities and flaws. We still have glimpses from time to time of our original created state in those moments when we are "exposed" to another person and they don't reject us. There is such restorative power in those instances and we must not underestimate it
What Dan Taberski's riveting and illuminating podcast brings to the surface for all us is the incredible potential that lies within the risk of being known by someone else, as well as the life-altering opportunity in allowing another to be truly themselves without the fear of judgment or the need for covering. May we each seek to find ways to do and be both today.