The Difference Between Looking and Seeing

This morning I went in to Coffee Bene’ and ordered my coffee from a curly-haired young man.  Instead of just ordering my coffee, I looked at him and held his eyes for a moment and let my nice mood actually come through my eyes. His response was quick but immediate.  He looked surprised.

The lenses of the eyes really are hooked up to all of who we are—our memories and tragedies, our level of development, our experiences.  With my eyes, I can see intention, motive—the human spirit. With my eyes I can see honesty—and I can see evasion.  I can use my eyes like a good machinist uses his hands.  I can do so much more than look—I can see.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between looking and seeing.  And there is a third category in there—being seen.

As a writer and communications coach, my senses are fine-tuned to see.  I’ve worked hard to see beyond “first response” to second, third, even fourth (where the response contains more truth and originality).  When I put my pen to a page, my goal is to see more deeply into something.  It entertains me and drives me forward.  I am not a recorder simply writing down how something looks.

This feels like a bit of bitchy preaching.  I wish I knew what it is I am trying to say.  I know there are multiple things here but I am having trouble sorting them.

First, I am sick of trying to figure out how to be seen.  The truth is—I just don’t care enough.  I want people to buy my books and read my stuff, but I suck at flitting around networking sites leaving my www.droppings like a busy rabbit.  And I am tired of stumbling over other people’s droppings.  It all takes so much time.

Second, I think we are missing the boat.  The single most important organ of the body is the eyes and instead of seeing the world around us and the people around us, we stare at screens until our eyeballs bleed.  Connection comes from the eyes and real relationships—not the number of friends or links or followers or groups we have.

And third, looking is not seeing.

Looking is the first level of the eyes, a function of the instinctual mammalian brain.  We use “looking” to keep from getting killed—to get out of the way of oncoming traffic, to avoid bears in the woods, to recognize bad storm clouds.  Looking is not seeing.

Seeing is using all of the neural connectors of the brain, mind, body, spirit to understand something or someone.  The lenses of the eyes are a million times more powerful than a camera lens because of the capacity of the human being to see not just the surface image but deeply into a person or event.  In a millisecond we can zoom in or out of past, present, and future.  We can see from above, behind, and inside out.  Move out too far and we lose interest.  Move in too close and it breaks our hearts.

Children are the easiest.  They have not yet learned to cloud over or shield their spirits.  Spirit leaks out of their eyes.  When I fix my eyes on a lively child, he or she instantly sees me.  We can be across a crowded restaurant, and he or she will begin to play with me.  I love it.

That’s my rant for the evening.  Let me know if you can “see” what I am saying.

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