The art of staring is one quite lost on developed nations, or fat nations as new fads insist. Staring is, "rude, uncomfortable, judgmental, self-absorbed". We even have sermonette slide shows online to explain this concept to the less fortunate who don't know how to behave themselves according to our tacit rules.
Staring, in not-so-Westernized areas, is the gift of drinking deep of the only education one has...the education that stands in front of one's eyes and must be intently studied and exhausted on all sides.
Immense liberty lies in the ability to look intently upon another person with no obligation to speak in exchange for looking. There is a calmness, a peace, a mystery, a power to discover one's world when we can stare into each other's souls through the portal of our eyes. I discovered this at age 8 when I moved to Cameroon and became the object of unveiled curiosity in my age-mates au village. Mes amis had a profound ability to study by way of staring. Void of judgment. Bursting with healthy curiosity. They just wanted to KNOW. Barriers of "stranger" were broken. Words didn't need to be spoken. Our eyes were enough. They stared. I stared back. We lingered in that moment of processing the beauty of each other at every angle. I found deep satisfaction and comfort in letting them stare without having to explain. I found rest and peace in being able to stare back and let my mind slowly wander over the pleasing aesthetics of our similarities and differences and content myself with the joy that is "discovery".
The peace and comfort of lingering to discover other beings and souls was jolted out of my reality when I moved back to America and had to rush rush rush to discover people through words, but never eyes. Staring is wrong, they might think ill of your intentions, don't do it. Rush rush rush. Use words only. ASK them what they're thinking. ASK them why they are the way they are. EXPLAIN to them why you are who you are. But never stare. It leaves too many unanswered questions. Never drink deeply of another being, quietly and peacefully.
I did find a few who beat the odds and learned to linger. Staring was ok and safe for them. These people KNEW me and I KNEW them. But my heart hurt for the lonely ones, the rushed ones, the ones who were taught so young that remaining in a moment with your eyes could be viewed as judgmental. Curiosity robbed. Deep satisfaction never fully achieved.
I found this with so many students in my classroom. I LOVED my job. I LOVED being around them day in and day out. I drank deep of the energy they brought into my classroom. So much positive, curious energy. Yet. So many seemed lonely. Not lonely and sad. Lonely and busy. So many friendlies whose eyes were never taught to linger. to remain. to rest in the moment. to drink of God's world. And oh, how I wanted them to stay. sit. watch the world. be quiet. don't explain yourself. don't ask questions. just look.
I'm back in the world of staring. It is glorious. My own daughter was 8 when she moved to Lesotho and I am having to re-educate her on the art of staring. Void of judgment. Bursting with curiosity. I'll have to re-educate her yet again when we return to the States, but for now, may she linger long and soak up the joy of looking, not talking. Because really, it's a beautiful world.
"Let all things praise
the name of the Lord,
because they were created
at his command.
He made them to last forever,
and nothing can change
what he has done."
Originally published on my original blog March 11, 2014. Also found in Raising a Family Overseas.