When we say that somebody “lacks depth,” what do we mean?

I take it we mean (a) that this person is, in a certain sense, thoughtless, (b) that he or she hasn’t suffered or hasn’t suffered much (or, more likely, hasn’t registered that suffering), and (c) that he or she hasn’t struggled.

Take first glimpses of my meaning. Think of someone who is tormented and who knows that he is tormented. Think of someone who, we say, is really “wrestling with something.” Think also not of someone who is purely “lost in thought” (a mathematical puzzle, say) but more specifically of one who is deep in thought about herself.

Depth of character seems to me to be a kind of alchemy where all three elements are brought together and thus transmogrified. Suffering becomes struggle and struggle, through thoughtfulness, becomes something much, much purer. Depth, therefore, is suffering raised to struggle, which is elevated by deliberate thoughtfulness to (call it) “beauty of soul.” For undeniably the deep person is a beautiful person.

Astonishingly, we can experience someone else’s depth through intuition and perceptiveness, not necessarily through words. There’s, we sense, just “more to” this person: a presence, yes; also a way of carrying herself; but most of all a gravitas, a gravity, a basic dignity; plus, as I say, an unspeakable beauty. Such a person is not just something to behold but someone to meet with one’s entire being.