BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE
BY DEBBY SIEGEL
Photos by Sheila Dugopolski
Calculate the approximate amount of time you’ve spent looking at a technological device today. Then compare this to the time spent peering into the eyes of another person on this same day. Vast gap in quantities? You’re not alone. Well, at least you can not be alone… by offering eye contact.
On October 15, a public experiment where individuals shared eye contact with strangers for 60 seconds called The World’s Biggest Eye Contact Experiment was conducted worldwide. On this particular Thursday, more than 90,000 people across 140+ cities participated in this humanity exercise. Cities included: Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Montreal, Toronto, Prague, London, Helsinki, Paris, Hong Kong, Milan, Ibiza, Boston, and Los Angeles. (For a full list of all the participating cities click HERE.) I attended one such gathering in Kiener Plaza, situated in downtown St. Louis.
We all make outward judgements about each other. Even my selection of who to sit across from and connect to through his/her eyes was based on some judgement. My first, a man, a choice outside my comfort zone. But he was closest to where I’d just parked my bike and it felt safest and the least disrupting to choose the closest. I learned in my 20s at clubs and the likes, that eye contact with men can sometimes be misinterpreted, so I adapted as a human to shortening this skill over the years. It was somewhat liberating to have my first experience in this gazing adventure be a man. I struggled a lot at first. I kept laughing and looking away. It took way longer than 60 seconds to accomplish our minute. But eventually we were able. After we stared into each other’s souls in silence at a table across from one another for that minute, he told me of his life. His story focused mostly on his love for his 2nd wife, his passion for scuba diving, and his occupation. We genuinely connected. Our judgements melted away and we connected on a human-to-human level. I may never have met, nor chosen to speak with this man elsewhere. I am so grateful I did that day. He taught me of hope and happiness at any stage in life.
I moved on. This time, I wanted to sit with the person closest to the center of the plaza, as I tend toward the center of spaces often for their energy and sound reverberations. Kiener Plaza is a sunken arena in a busy downtown. I noticed almost immediately when silently eye gazing how the design of this space muffled traffic sounds, and how I actually heard the leaves falling from the few nearby trees in the city! Incredible.
My second stranger and I sat on a blanket on the ground, others surrounding us. We smiled. We laughed. I learned she was a single mom of three who lived nearly 50 miles from the event. She shared some of her significant stories with me as well. We connected. We gazed. We overcame the messages of appearances. We shared a bond only she and I will. It was enlightening and freeing.
In his 1943 paper, Theory of Human Motivation, and subsequent book, humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow taught us of human motivations and needs beginning with the most basic. Human connection is one of these basic needs. We become the best versions of ourselves when connected to others.
Maintained eye contact between two people establishes an invisible energetic circuit between them. Barriers are dissolved. The two share an awareness. They connect in a union. Our world today is filled with ample opportunities to disconnect from one another. To absorb ourselves in events or conversations taking place elsewhere. How refreshing it was for me to find this basic need of human connection in this blissful fall afternoon right in front of me. I felt a renewed fulfillment with such a simple methodology.
Onto my third stranger. Eye gazing with this woman enabled me to dissolve many external issues with her physical appearance and personality and truly see her. I chose her based on availability. I quickly learned how far I’d come from the first slightly uncomfortable place I’d been when this experiment began. As I looked at her I heard a lady nearby begin to cry with her experience. I understood. I was significantly able to surrender to the process with this third gazer. She gifted me with a message of peace and love.
My final participant is a man with whom I’m familiar. I’ve recently come to know him and respect him tremendously. His energy and heart are pieces of himself he shares with the world in a calming, perceptual way consistently. He is what Maslow referenced when coining the term “metamotivation” to describe the motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the basic needs and strive for constant betterment. He is a gift, and completed my World Eye Contact experiment splendidly. We gazed long and with few words. We held onto each other. We hugged. This connection and the entire experiment are experiences I will cherish always.
To find out more about The Liberators International’s mission to involve people in participatory acts of freedom that allow us all to see that beyond our differences there is love and humanity, visit their website. To find your own human connection right now, walk away from whatever device you’re reading this on, grab a human, and stare into his/her soul for at least 60 seconds.
Thank you for your time, Debby.
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