I think you already know
How far I’d go not to say
You know the art isn’t gone
And I’m taking this all to the grave
J. Homme, The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret, Rated-R
The origin of the word "secret" is an interesting one. Its roots trace back to the Latin "Secretum," the past participle of the verb "Secernere," signifying "to set aside." This verb evolved from another, "Cernere," meaning "to separate" or "to distinguish." In ancient times, sharing or holding a secret meant more than mere withholding words—it denoted the separation or exclusion of individuals. Even today, we continue to discern trustworthy individuals from others, determining whom we involve or exclude from different parts of our lives based on the secrets we choose to disclose. Secrets exist only in the realm of choice and exclusion. They don’t thrive in complete public exposure (obviously) or absolute privacy. When only one person knows something without any deliberation on inclusion or exclusion of others, it’s not a secret; it remains merely a thought or a private action. Secrets, originally, involved at least a duality.
Later in history, as medicine advanced, "Secernere" took on another meaning relevant to our understanding of secrets. This is evident in the English word most closely related to "secret": "secrete." This term commonly associates with cells or glands and their function of releasing substances. To secrete implies producing something distinct from its origin (for example, sperm is distinct from the testicles) yet connected to it. Similarly, secrets adopt facets of this meaning. When we possess or share a secret, those words or actions, though related to us, take on a life of their own. They become separate entities, performing their function independently of us. This encapsulates the essence of a secret—its ability to accomplish a task that we, on our own, cannot achieve. A secret can draw us closer to some individuals while distancing us from others. It might reveal our true selves or portray someone else in a manner inaccessible through conventional means. It might signify complete surrender or convey an unspoken "I belong to you" that words cannot express.
Ultimately, though, another observation can be made about this modality of the origin of secrets. A truly revealing one when it comes to secrets and their beholders. Just like a fully developed gland is properly functioning only if it secretes the substance it is supposed to, a fully-grown human being is properly living only if they have secrets. “To be is to have a secret”; “I have a secret, therefore I am” should be the human’s motto. A life worth living is a life worth sharing with someone but not with everyone. A life worth living is a life where you have secrets that you share with someone else. A life worth living is, even, a life where you are someone’s secret.
Considering both etymologies, then, a secret emerges as a means of separating, setting aside, or isolating individuals through a substance that, while not us, emanates directly from us. This substance operates independently and fulfills a specific function that couldn’t be achieved otherwise. Sharing, having, or keeping a secret are diverse mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion that, once in existence, transcend anyone’s control. Like a newly formed substance, secrets take on a life of their own, engaging in a game beyond the creator's intentions, and that give to the creator’s life meaning.
Ὁ μῦθος δηλοῖ ὅτι: Always be fearful of a person with no secrets as they have not lived properly.