Somebody That I Used to Know

We humans are made for communion, for intimacy, for connection with God and others — and when we experience it, we know we’ve had a brush with the eternal. Even though I was an atheist in those years, I never would have denied that something special — sacred, even — transpired between us in those moments, however brief they were. I knew that the bond we felt in those moments was meant to last, that in a perfect world, it would remain forever. One afternoon when we were sitting outside during lunch at school, we were having such a great time, just chatting and laughing, that I was overwhelmed with a yearning for our friendship to last forever — I knew that that’s the way it should be. But I was enough of a realist to know that not all high school friendships last, and it broke my heart to accept the fact that there was a real chance that we would lose touch one day; that, to her, I would be somebody whom she used to know.

And so as I watched the woman walk away at Ikea the other day, I could hear Somebody That I Used to Know in my head like a movie soundtrack. Though Gotye is specifically singing about a failed romance (and Bonnie Engstrom covers that angle here), the kind of loss that drives his musical masterpiece can happen in every kind of human relationship. Other songs may do a better job of conveying the pain of rage, or sorrow, or disappointment; but through both the words and the melody of his haunting tune, Gotye nails a particular kind of pain, one that is tragically common in modern life: The pain of lost communion.

Somebody That I Used to Know by Jennifer Fulwiler

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