“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.