Sunday, July 31, 2011


Having a stranger stare right into your eyes, that makes anyone feel uncomfortable. One feels an instinct to avert one's gaze and break the unsolicited eye contact, as if that stops the stranger from continuing his probing study. The eyes are the windows to the soul, and we surely shutter it from prying eyes. That is merely human.

This person called Stanley commutes to work by train. He gets on somewhere near the start of line, where he is almost certainly assured of a seat. The journey takes some time, and some people choose to read, while others engage themselves with their fancy gadgets. Yet others grab this opportunity to get some shuteye. Stanley does not of these things, at least not anymore. He has other ways of passing the time.

Stanley likes to look right into the eyes of strangers.

He wasn't always like this. A time ago he was just like any other person, unable to look into the eyes of strangers without feeling a thorny sense of awkwardness. Then, he would always shutter his eyes and pretend to be asleep just to avoid crossing gazes with the nameless passengers seated across him on the train. Even then he felt uncomfortable, especially if the person seated across him was an attractive woman.

He doesn't do any of these things now. Now his eyes just pierce right through whoever sits on the opposite side of the train.

The change was not a gradual one, not one effected over the course of many weeks or months. It was a sudden transformation, inspired by an unsolicited epiphany. It just happened one day, where he was on the train again, with his eyes closed in mock sleep. Then he had the thought, "Perhaps the discomfort comes not from staring at others. Perhaps the feeling of unease comes from being stared at, from being exposed to scrutiny. If I am the one doing the scrutinizing, doing the observing, doing the staring, then I have nothing to fear nor to feel uneasy about."

And so he opened his eyes, and he saw a great many things which he had failed to notice before. He started out by noting the appearances of people, first the clothes and accessories they wore, then the body shape and skin complexion, and finally their facial features. Humans were interesting!

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