Seeing Past Plastic

 

“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.” – John Steinbeck.

 

What are you looking for when you people watch?

Being one who is in a perpetual state of doing so, regardless of whether that is always my direct intention or not, I must ask myself the same question.  You’d think after being human so long, surrounded by our fellow Homo sapiens, we might find such pastimes entirely dull, or at least a bit monotonous.

But we don’t, not at all.  And why?   Why do I find myself staring at a stranger passing by, taking in as much as I can manage in that short amount of time, hoping to glean information about who they are and why?

The more I consider the question, the more I am inclined to think it is more than just moderate curiosity, at least on my part.  I watch because I want to know.  I want to know who people are at their core, past all the exteriors and walls of self-preservation to where the soul lies.  I want to know why they get up in the morning, what bothers them about the dark, what it is they hope for.  What makes them smile, what breaks their heart, what motivates them. Do they believe in life or are they just acting the act? Why do they feel so sad to me?

These and a million other questions flash through my mind every-time I look at someone. For in all reality, if I’m going to be entirely honest with myself, I don’t look at people, I look into them.  I feel them.   Past their words and even their actions to a place deep down where they actually exist and breath.

What you see with your physical eyes and what you have the potential of perceiving in another human being are two very different things, and I have long found the desire and ability to look past the visual illusions that so often distract us from the truth of someone.

I think that is why we watch people, I think we want to know.  I’ve often been told that one of the deepest human desires is be known, truly, and accepted.  Might I suggest that the flip side of this is also true, that we carry the desire to know and accept.  I have no interest in becoming more acquainted with the exterior structure of plastic replicates designed to perpetuate an idea of a person that does not exist.  There are plenty of those, and they’re all the same.  If that is what I was after I suppose I’d hop online and start clicking away at the millions of duplicates created to draw us away from what is real to what we think we want to see and hear.

But you- there is only one of you, and that is precisely what I’m after.   I am entranced by every human I see into, for they are the only one of their kind.  They are a mystery to be unlocked, and even if I simply get a glimmer of their soul, that is worth the effort.

I suppose such depth of perception may not always be what people are after, for such places of the soul are often filled with pain, sadness, and unbearable reality. Perhaps most would rather stick with what looks nice to the eyes, the pseudo smiles that we can pretend are real.  The Starbucks cups, the shiny cars, the lovely plastic faces and digital lives we have so perfected.

I’d like to think people want more than that, though I suppose I only can say with certainty that I do.  In comparing the outward appearance to the inward, there really is no comparison at all.

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Memiors of a Nerd

I’ve always had this weird habit of smelling the pages of a library book when I first open it up,  I feel like the essence of what it holds inbetween it’s covers has a great deal to do with where it’s been.  Pine, dust, coffee, leaves, whiskey, irish air?  I cannot help but wonder at the places it may have traveled, who has read it, and what lives it may have touched by it’s thoughts.  Books are more than the words written in them.

For, if say, a particular book has an impact on a particular man, he may then do something about it, say behave differently with another person by it’s ideas, or perhaps even write a book of his own in response.  And then someone else reads the second book, or simply is changed by the man himself, and on and on it goes.  The domino affect of books is entirely endless and I am forever enchanted by holding it in my hands and breathing in it’s musty pages.

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This began when I was a youngster, back when libraries were as common as Starbucks, when there was no such thing as the internet or cell phones, and the coolest computer game was Oregon Trails.

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The only way to play it was during a trip to the library itself, where it would be found at the one massive computer sitting next to the dewey decimals system card catalog.

If you just asked yourself what the hell dewey decimals system card catalogs are, I suspect you were born after 1990 and may have little to no interest in what I am talking about at the moment.  Consider this fair warning, dear reader, and I am sorry for your loss.

Aside from the stories and thoughts so beautifully laid out in these paper treasures, I would often find myself lost for hours skimming through their pages, wondering at their history in the back aisles of one of my favorite places in the world.  I was lost there, in the best way possible, and I never felt more at home.

If you’ve been unsure as to whether or not I was a full-blown nerd,  wonder now no more.

Back then there were these funny little pockets at the front of each book, stating the names and dates of those who’d read them before me.  It become somewhat of an obsessive hobby of mine going through those names and seeing how far back I could discover a shared lover of the same story and if, perhaps, somewhere we’d met before.

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My delight of that place became my escape, and the fascination of tales and the writing of them never ceased to amaze and consume me. I read more books as a child and young adult than I can count, most of which have become like old friends whom I like to go back and visit from time to time.

I even find myself dreaming of that library’s peaceful and seemingly ancient walls when my soul becomes weary of the cold, fast beat of the internet, cell phones and every other hurried glowing thing that seems to have taken over the planet.  Though I may be a fool to think so, there is for me no greater pleasure than sitting underneath a tree somewhere away from the city with a good book in hand that has been loved on and read many times over.

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