Who doth knock without?

Engaging intellectually with the subject assumes we have answers to fundamental questions. When we say “Knock knock” is this an externalised physical action, or simply the internal anticipation of an external action? Is there, in reality, a knock, or just the perception, the expectation of a knock that the subconscious mind has woven into the ongoing transformative narrative of memory. When the sleeping mind hears a ringing alarm clock it is capable of instantaneously back-forming a dream-memory or a sequence of dream-memories that – subjectively – last many minutes or even hours. This sequence, this narrative, culminates in the physical world intrusion of the alarm clock ringing, but seamlessly threaded into the dream narrative that did not exist until mere moments before.

We exist in a physical, tangible world where objects come into contact with objects on a frequent basis. If we were to listen to every interaction of surface upon surface, we would be surrounded, constantly with a clamouring of knocks, bangs, thuds and thumps. We have developed – evolved – the ability to isolate and focus on individual sounds that are of relevance and interest to us. What is it about this sound, this specific knock, that should capture our attention and focus in this way? The repetition – the doubled knock and knock – could be said to distinguish this sound from mere accidental contact, but there are many repeated impacts that capture our attention far less effectively. Hold a stick horizontally, and let it fall to the ground – the simple physics of gravity and rotational momentum and the asymmetry of nature will cause one end to impact the surface before the other. One end hits – knock – the other end hits – again, knock. Yet we instinctively know that this knock and knock is not a natural phenomenon. It is an action that is deliberate, conscious, and intentional.

The acknowledgement of this external entity, this ‘other’, instantly challenges René Descartes’ solipsism – the concept that there is nothing outside of our perceived that we can prove to exist; devoid of any truly, truly external reference point that does not pass through our own subjective senses, how can we be certain any of it exists? How can we be certain there is an Other to knock-knock on an unseen, undefined, unknowable surface. Kant might suggest that without an “I” to perceive it, the external reality of the other would still exist, but knowledge of it, and of it’s knock-knock would not.

Through the perception of “Knock knock” – we assume the action of an external agent, independent of the subjective, perceiving mind – our mind. We assume the presence of some boundary, some divide between “Us” and “Them” that renders them unknown and unknowable except through their interaction with this dividing boundary. This external agent is unseen and unknown, but demonstrates a desire, a need, to be /known/; to be witnessed. This simple action of expressing a need to be known, this action of Them interrupting Us challenges us to question our shared reality. The reality shared by Us and Them. We do not know Them, but do they know Us? Is this a reciprocal experience? Clearly there is a dynamic at play that we, in our – initially – ignorant state, can only perceive the edges of.

They demonstrate a need to be known – perhaps one of the primal needs. A need that supersedes and supplants our need to be exist on our own terms, and live our lives. They challenge our reality with a simple action; with their interruption of our reality. Their need to be known and acknowledged is deemed more important, and more powerful than our need – our desire – to remain isolated, hidden, unknown. They have the power. They have control of the environment and the reality, until the moment at which we perceive the knock and the knock of their interruption. At this point – or more precisely – at the point at which this external agent can be judged to have assumed we have heard, perceived and interpreted the intent of their knock-knock – the power shifts to us; to our side of the boundary that divides Us from Them. We now have been allowed control over the environment, the developing relationship. The balance of power has shifted; they have seemingly allowed us control over them and knowledge of them. We hold them in our hands – to answer, or to ignore; to acknowledge, to validate, to know; or to leave Them unknown, unseen.