The Mysteries of Eye Contact
We communicate so much pain and love and happiness and outrage through eye contact. It is a powerful tool for social beings, as our eyes are key to telling emotions. In acting, eyes also demonstrate a character's purpose or intent along with their emotions, which may partially explain why actors use their eyes when trying to method act (scrunching up their face such as when they sob to illicit sadness or desperation, contort their stare angrily to illicit anger and outrage, etc). I have been thinking about this for the past week, and I've noticed the invisible power struggle among strangers and friends and enemies alike, the gift of scrutinization of the world which is only endowed among few, and the esoteric philosophical mystery of what hides beyond our comprehension and sight; the Surreal.
The Invisible Struggle for Power
I'm usually the first to break away. Most of the time—depending entirely on who I'm talking to—I am the one to never initiate eye contact. It's only with those who I admire who I look directly in the eyes. Or, if I'm engaged in enmity with a schoolmate, I'll use eye contact to project moxie. I never think about it; it's automatic. The same goes for 90% of my classmates. I despise it.
The 10% of classmates are those callused or confident enough to hold eye contact forever. Some part of their identity subconsciously gives, and they feel no fear or embarrassment by holding it. It goes to say that everyone has the capacity for eye contact, but most naturally deflect their eyes than challenge. The study is called Oculesics; the study of eye movement blah blah non-verbal communication. How the eye flickers and glares is a clear signal of emotion, with anger glaring out openly, sadness looking down in dejection, disgust vacillating the eyes rapidly and turning away, and my favorite being pity: a deep heavy gaze into the eyes, with tears starting to well up. It's an odd arrangement of signals, non of which I can consciously tell for sure.
When I was in ninth grade that having good posture and connecting through eye contact makes you automatically seem like a confident and capable person. I was none of those things, but I could pretend that I was on stage. There have only been brief ruptures of passion where everything melted away and anger took hold of my voice and body, captivating the crowd as my wild figure jumped around in ultimate hysteria. I've since dreamed of a day where I could jump up in front of a crowd commanding myself a king, wielding a voice of power and strong posture. However, I have only gotten cast as a "small-boy". I think in order to be confident you have to be confident, brazen, unshaken: something I'm still working on.
Nobody really reminds you of how important an instrument eye contact can be in our daily lives. You can make someone sit down in fear by glaring at them with such an anger it disarms them completely. You can make someone pity you and feel sad enough into taking action of any kind. You can flirt, wooing a person with knowing and glowing eyes. You can fake delirium, fear, confidence, hell you can fake love. Eyes are an insidious tool because the actor who wields them takes advantage of people's unconscious trust. No wonder most political leaders know how to present themselves in front of a crowd.
It reminds all reminds me of a moment in Harrison Bergeron; a short story by Kurt Vonnegut. The story depicts a dystopian American society in 2081, as the government quite literally makes everyone equal by putting restrictive handicaps on them so that they cannot reach their full potential and thus be better at something than anyone else. At the climax of the story, the main character, Harrison Bergeron, breaks free of his oppressive governmental shackles and declares himself emperor, finding his queen and quite literally flying up into the air dancing with her in a beautiful moment of hyperbolic symbolism for human excellence. In a way, our shackles in today's society is the fear of judgement, whereas human nature contradicts that imagined rule as we yearn for the authentic charisma we see in the fake charade put on by so many in our daily lives. Or something, just a thought.
Observation of Detail and Beauty
A while ago, I felt that meaning was an intrinsic to anything that could be observed. Any object, a lamp, a fish, a dove, a rock, which was seen by anything conscious, had meaning to it. I thought that when everything in this universe died, we wouldn't get another chance to observe the world, and it would all be gone, like an etch-a-sketch. I played with this notion a lot, and started to feel bad after a while. I started criticizing myself for being pretentious and solipsist about the world around me. I also toyed around with the idea of The Ship of Theseus, and what it meant to have identity. The idea is that if you replace all the parts of something (such as all the parts of a ship: the sails, floorboards, ropes, everything) until nothing unique to the first thing remained, would it still be the thing. Similarly, if your cells regenerate to the point where none of your original cells remain, would you be an entirely different person?
I learned these things in pursuit of a girl. My hopes were that in some reality, my "sophisticated" outlook of the world would somehow make me a person deserving of such an amazing person. It was right after the Fall production, almost exactly one year ago, when I started considering the notion of beauty. I aligned my previous views on detail and meaning to define it. I couldn't. It was as though simultaneously all the meaning in the world had been sapped from my comprehension while I was given new insight into how breathtaking the universe could be. It was beautiful, and lonely. There wasn't a way to articulate my thoughts. Beauty was beyond understanding.
I thought I knew one thing for sure. Beauty is meaning. Without beauty in one's life, there was no reason to live. The search for meaning was the search for beauty. There were friends—well, only one friend—who I confided these thoughts in. I saw him looking up at the sky one day and I looked up at it. I saw a sky. He saw the universe. It was like he saw past all the brilliant colors, past the stars, past the blackness of space, into the sparkling nothingness that awaits. He told me it was beautiful. I understood that the people who step out of the cars to watch the sunset, the people who looked into the long tract of land with the phone lines that split the forest in two, the people who danced wildly as if they were to die tomorrow, those were the people who I wanted to spend my life with: for they understood beauty.
It's been a while since then. I look up at the sky and see sky. Yesterday I came across the notion of blurring details. Like looking at a desert and seeing sand, then looking at sand and seeing a grain, then looking at a grain and seeing quartz. Each grain of sand has different facets and sides to it at all times. It is not a desert, it is a collection of sand, and that fact makes life more beautiful. It means that there is detail to everything, and that the universe is more complex than we ever choose to see. We blur details. In addition, we make everything seem too big or too small. A grain of sand is tiny, a planet is large. We don't stop to imagine the grain of sand as if it were a 6ft by 6ft block, with smaller cracks and indents and facets and sheen. Would it be conchoidal and shiny or rough and dull? The same thing with a planet. We imagine our Earth to be an expansive plane where humans live, instead of a small orb of rock and water floating through space. If we did, we would notice that there are millions of other planets all around us, each with their deserts, each with their grains, each with small tiny indents and facets.
The Surreal: What Hides Beyond
It's a wondrous painting, isn't it? The dichotomy between the seen and the decorously hidden. Everything has something behind it. Rocks in front of earth in front of space in front of stars in front of space in front of.... nothing to infinity. Like people, behind every action hides another intent hides another subconscious instinct hides another evolutionary function hides another biological mystery of life itself hides behind existence itself. Like how we think darkness hides behind light—we open a door and light pours in—but in fact, without light is nothing. Nothing that we can interpret. A complete absence of light is not dark, for without light there is no dark. There is nothing. It's surreal, taking us off-guard, provocative, and energizing. It makes us want to refute, like taking a person out of the warmth of a fireplace and putting them into the cold. They want comfort in the warmth that is understanding. People fear what they cannot understand. And that's just it. The universe is absurd. Existence is absurd. Nihilism is absurd. The painting is by Rene Magritte, whose absurdity aims not to create meaning through apt symbolism, but to reveal a fundamental truth: that what is hidden is beautiful.
"[The uncanny] is the name for everything that ought to have remained . . . hidden and secret and has become visible." —a quote by Friedrich Schelling on page 466 of Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
Instead of fearing the unknown, perhaps we should approach it with beauty. Everyone likes a good riddle, a good mystery, a good folklore. Neil Gaiman's novel takes hold of this and wrings all the beauty out of his words until we're left with an exultant feeling of wonder and gratification. His characters describe complex thoughts and emotions with such archetypal eloquence that reading his series Sandman almost feels like religion. It unravels the truths of the world while simultaneously exposing us to its beautiful mysteries. If you have no idea what I am talking about, read A Parliament of Rooks. Anyways, eye contact, yeah that's what the article was about. I kinda forgot. Ok in summary, eyes = gatekeepers to beauty = meaning = whatever. You can do math. Connect the dots for me. I'm tired of writing things I have too much trouble articulating. I guess if you want to hear my thoughts, you'll have to imagine it as a mystery in itself.