There is an old proverb that says the eyes are the window to the soul. But in today’s frantic, fearful, and wireless world, we’re only going as far as opening our curtains.
I remember when I first moved to Sydney. Before then, I didn’t think it was possible to feel so lonely while being surrounded by so many people. Of course, I should mention that I had also recently returned from Tonga ― a small island in the South Pacific suitably known as ‘the friendly island’. Living there challenged my ideas of normal social behaviour ― people freely approached and acknowledged one another ― and I certainly welcomed the change. Having grown up in Brisbane, I didn’t consider myself closed off by any means. But sometimes you don’t notice something is wrong until you see it done right.
Being new to Melbourne (yep, I get around), I figured that attending an eye-gazing event held by The Human Connection Movement would be a good way to meet people. I was particularly anticipating the conversations I’d have, but I was quite surprised by the experience of eye-gazing. In that, there was something to be experienced.
The instructions provided were basically, sit and stare. Simple enough, but a challenge given what Western culture considers appropriate when it comes to communicating. Especially with complete strangers.
Past the initial few seconds, it feels like what can be described as trespassing. But eventually, the boundaries start to slowly dissolve. You realise how guarded you were. And then there is an unspoken agreement that this is okay; the windows start to open.
Entering requires leaving behind any preconceived ideas based on your partner’s appearance ― their outfit, age, race, body shape and gender etc. Letting go of judgement also frees one of any concerns of being judged; you feel accepted. As if in this moment you don’t have to be anyone; you just have to be. Knowing that a complete stranger is giving you their undivided attention with no agenda; you feel valued.
You keep staring but realise that this is as far as you’ll get. Just like when star-gazing on a clear night, the longer you stare the more you realise how little you truly know. But I believe that reaching this point is the whole purpose of the activity and an indication that you’re ready to change partners. You don’t need to know your partner’s name, background or interests. It’s irrelevant how similar or different they are. Because you’ve managed to become closer with someone simply by acknowledging the one thing we always seem to look past: we’re all human.