Tuesday, March 8, 2011

R U there?

This is going to sound a very silly question, but, please bear with me. It's nowhere near as stupid as it sounds.

Have you ever looked at yourself in a mirror? Not a critical appraisal, to mark the onset of the first wrinkle or a depressing glimpse of another grey hair, but a real encounter . . . have you met the person behind your own eyes?

The reason for that question is something I heard the other day. We meet God, it was said, both in the eyes of other people, and in our own eyes when we look into the mirror.

Curious to put this statement to the test, I went into the bathroom and cautiously made eye contact with my reflection. It was a surprising experience . . . unsettling, vaguely intrusive and strangely disturbing. Absurdly, I felt a little shy of myself.
Was I really looking into the eyes of the divine source? Even more to the point, did I really want to look into the eyes of the divine source? Had I the courage? Wasn't I perfectly happy as I was? Might not too much closeness, too much revelation, take me somewhere I wasn't prepared to go? Well . . . not yet anyway.
Tomorrow, perhaps . . . but not today. Give me time, I told myself, backing away . . . let me think about it.

But it's not easy to wriggle out of such an encounter . . . and hard to deny what your own eyes are telling you. Held captive in the moment, I stayed where I was and let the questioning slowly die away. I also began to ponder on the wider implications of this experience . . . the fact that it isn't just the eyes that link us in this profound intimacy to the ground of our being, it's all of our senses.

Think about if for a moment. The touch of a hand, the loving tone of a voice, the warmth of an embrace . . . in their different ways, each one of these imparts a depth and subtlety of contact that takes the concept of communication to a completely different level.

I was struck by something else. What does 'communication' mean to us? We usually think of it in connection with words. But this form of contact, this contact from the heart, has nothing to do with words.
I use words a great deal . . . I love words. But, without the voice to give them interpretation, without the eyes to give them life, words can be sterile . . . or, even worse, ambiguous. You don't agree? Then look at the way that two actors, given the same play, the same words and the same plot, manage to create two distinctly different characters.

And let's go back to that exercise in the mirror. When we meet each other, face to face, words are often superfluous. Could it be that we are losing more than we realise in placing so much reliance not only on words, but, specifically on electronic communication?
How can a text message convey the underlying sub-text that is carried by the voice . . . or an email transport the infectious joy of laughter? Are we impoverished, even stultified, by our growing reliance on the latest scientific technique?

Wait a minute . . . forgive me if I pause to enjoy a quiet chuckle! Surely this letter is, in itself, proof of what I'm trying to say? Here I am, struggling with mere words to convey, by electronic means, something that is way beyond the power of words.

Nonetheless, as I can't look into your eyes to recognise our common source and render words redundant . . . well . . . I'm afraid that, for the moment, this is the best we can manage!