Culture

The eyes hold no truths

My eyes are drooping, my head is pounding and my heart is aching. I see the train track lights straight ahead of me as I commute back home. It is so cliche to say that there is light at the end of the tunnel but I am looking straight at it and it seems a bit abysmal.

I have never sat in this direction and location in the train before. It is causing my frown lines to sharpen. I can see everyone’s weary face. Some are napping. Some are typing away furiously on some corporate document. A few are watching a movie on their ipad. But  everyone  is in their own private mind zone barely noticing their fellow commuters. There can be three people squeezed into a seating area and if you were to ask all three two minutes later what the other two  individuals looked like, none would be able to tell you with any degree of accuracy.  Of course, eye witness accounts  are notoriously inaccurate.  For instance, inaccurate eyewitness identification has been cited as a factor in nearly 78% of the first 130 convictions overturned by DNA testing in the United States. Yet, for train passengers in San Francisco to not have noticed a gunman pointing a gun at them is a bit surreal.How disconnected are the world’s inhabitants from one another when a person can sit next to another individual for thirty minutes and never have looked at that person’s face? The eyes are no longer used to see into another being’s soul. The eyes hold no truths.  They are now vehicles to ignore the masses by concentrating on only that which lies before us.

I stare straight ahead into the train track tunnel and it is a dark, murky grimy abyss. Who dares to stare back? There was a recent, creepy (as usual) outrageously ludicrous episode of the television show Criminal Minds, where a deranged man was performing lobotomies and inserting small video chips into the lobotomized  person’s eye. That chip created a real time video feed that webcasted what was in the lobotomized person’s line of vision even though that individual couldn’t really grasp what it was that they were seeing.  The episode’s writers may have been onto something larger than they thought. For in that episode the world was remotely voyeuristically watching  what the individual could not see.  Not a very far off truth from our everyday world nowadays. The eyes were once the gateway into a person’s soul but the eyes are now so removed from day-to-day realities that the eyes no longer serve as a vehicle for understanding and creating connections. Those that stare back, do so from a distance.

Not only do we embed our eyes deep into the technological void but we also find all sorts of ways to mask our eyes from the world. A few decades back, Corey Hart noted he wears his sunglasses at night so that he can “see the light that’s right before” his eyes. Perhaps he was onto something.

Tell me, when is the last time you truly looked at a stranger’s face? How about the person seated next to you on the train?  When was the last time you looked deep into another set of eyes and saw that person’s soul?

 

9 replies »

  1. Not looking was how I created space for myself. It was unpleasant but I think that’s what we have become for efficiency we travel in large packs and we have become masters of ignoring, not seeing and putting walls around ourselves.

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    • We are more and more traveling in packs. I was astounded by the volume of commuters in japan. Definitely there i saw how personal space was carved out efficiently. Although my one secret weapon was my 4 year old son who got tons of attention (happy attention).

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  2. I frequently look at faces, but often surreptitiously (I think). Window reflections are excellent for this. It helps that I’m tall so obstacles (books, seats, etc.) don’t get in the way. Having worked a job where eye contact sometimes provoked an attack, I got pretty good at looking indirectly.

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  3. I am always scanning and focusing on people, both in the street and on the train ride to and from work. I don’t know if it is because I am the child of Europeans who stare blatantly and naturally at others or because I don’t posses a smart gadget of any kind. I like knowing who is around me and should there be any kind of emergency, I’ll be the first person to bust out a description. The one thing I seem to be oblivious to is when others are observing me. When I learn after the fact, I am always dumbfounded because I had scanned these individuals, but never felt their gaze on me. So strange.

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    • Now that i am reading through all the comments, i wish i had added a few more things to my original post :-). As a New Yorker, am “trained” to scan ahead in the environment. Im always looking two streets up just to make sure it is “safe” i think many new yorkers do it as well. but perhaps thats starting to be overwhelming. making it that we want to have those moments we are just immersed in our immediate selves.

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  4. Western Societies development regarding face-to-face interaction has changed a lot in the last 10 – 15 years. You are right to say that individuals often do not look at each other directly, nor do they look at each other eye to eye. Looking at another individual eye-to-eye is often a very private communication. I believe that because the cultural / economical / financial climate in Western societies have changed so much, that individuals are becoming confused about who to connect with and who not to connect with. I like Julia’s comment about how she scans and focuses on people and is dumbfounded when she finds out that the other people were observing her too. I like this because, to me it illustrates that individuals are viewing other individuals – however in an indirect versus a direct way.

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