I am within a sea of people. No one is looking at me.
And I am not looking at anyone. Or at least that is what I would have done if I have not looked up and around and performed this exercise.
I have observed – in large crowds or even in intimate spaces, people do not look each other in the eye anymore. It seems that everyone is absorbed in their own realities, in their own present and everyone else dissolves or is absorbed by the void. Oblivious to everything. Are people just not interested anymore? Are they too scared to share a moment, however fleeting, that they let themselves be wholly and completely consumed by their thoughts, or going to what they perceive is their goal (although at times, really trivial)?
There was a time when I would look at everything and everyone and be interested. I would smile and be unafraid – of being approached, of sexual advances, of small talk. But that is no longer the case. I have found that the more I aged the more I became wary (or weary) – of conversations with strangers, of fleeting looks, of being rebuffed, of half-hearted smiles, of not having my smile mirrored back to me. Which is most often the case because, well, people are not looking.
Why is this so?
When everyone is supposedly connected to everyone else.
I am reminded by the streets of New York. Everyone is rushing. It is the same everywhere.
Can we not feel the connection anymore? Why the disconnect?
Stop an smell the flowers. Stop and look around.
Is this the effect of our absorption with that which do not look or speak back – like the television or the personal computer? Because of our exposure to them, is it laying down for us a life without face to face conversation, of unidirectional non-communions and absorption with the self?
Fading from the world.
When other people and real life is more absorbing and wonderful.
Yes, of course there are dangers. But most of the time, it is more imagined rather than real.
Yes, of course we must be afraid. People can be treacherous and lecherous and atrocious.
But the sad truth is, if we live in our heads, we let life pass us by. If we do not feel or even acknowledge the throbbing life next to us (yes, the ones crossing our paths and invading our personal space), we miss out on having our lives affected forever.
Because they – the ones headed in our direction, looking hesitant and shy and as lost as we are – may actually be really wonderful.