The Eyes Hold Many Secrets!
Elizabeth would often go on about the importance of the need to look at ourselves honestly. The more we look at ourselves honestly the more we are able to look at others more honestly. It is important to be willing to see what is there, not what is being projected via facades. As I did more inner work and really began to look at myself honestly I found myself looking at people’s eyes more. That was interesting because for years I would avoid eye contact with people. It made me very nervous and uncomfortable. I see now that I was so mixed up and neurotic back then that I did not really have much of an idea of who I was. How could I possibly deal with seeing who others truly are and be able to experience intimacy with them on emotional levels?
How wonderful it is when we grow and heal and start to move on. As my creativity began to blossom, and my world became more enriched as I entered more and more of the creative rich domains of my soul and psyche, I became more interested and concerned about other people, and wanted to know who they really were at the soul level. Now I wanted to see more of who they were. Maybe I could even get a glimpse of their soul. I was seeing and learning more about how I ticked. I wanted to learn more about others as well. I wanted them to be exactly who they were and to be able to tell me anything, even if they had what they felt were shameful or dirty thoughts and feelings. I wanted to hear it all. I wanted to experience their essence, all of it, and how could I experience their essence if they kept hiding from me. After so many years of loneliness and alienation, with the help of therapy and my own guides and soul, I was coming out of the pit. Or let's say that I was going back there less frequently. It was time to begin to mix and mingle with humanity more for I know that we all are unique personalities with much to offer other people. No man is an island as the saying goes. I had been one far too long. It felt nice to begin to join the ranks of the human race.
I began to realize how true love and caring involves so much more than satisfying the desires and needs of the flesh. There is so much more to us than these physical bodies. Yes, I would be the first to admit I have strong passions. This is a quality I admire, look for, and encourage in people. Being passionate is to welcome and celebrate life. That is one of the purposes of life here on the earth. Why not fully embrace the human condition? After all, we are here so many years and we have to spend the time somehow an old man once told me. Why not jump at life with all the gusto we got and be go-getters? How fulfilling can sitting on the fence of life be? We should all be ever willing and more than eager to suck the marrow out of the bone of life as the saying goes. Like Dolly Parton said in the movie Straight Talk “If you don’t toot your own horn, how is anybody going to know you are there?”
I have always been a people watcher. Nothing excites me more than to watch a gymnast, ballerina, or belly dancer perform. When I dated this woman Krista in college one day we went to a Greek restaurant where they had a belly dancer. The Moroccan dancer mesmerized me with her stunning performance. I think she got a kick out of the looks on my face, my face gives my feelings away a lot, and she even came to our table and gave us a little solo performance. I was in seventh heaven and Krista said she was too. The dancer said she loved to affect the audience and it made her very happy to hear ooh’s, ahs and sighs. It made her work harder. We must not hold back our expressions and reactions to that which amazes and mesmerizes us. It gives energy to the performers and helps us release emotional energy as well, so everyone gets goodies.
Who says we adults cannot have childlike glee and twinkling eyes like dear ole Father Christmas? So, stand up and root for your team, cheer for your heroes and show them you love them and are behind them all the way. We have all heard that sports teams work harder and get more enthusiastic when the crowd hollers and roots for them. The energy is very contagious and we need it just as they need it. I still smile when I think of our track events in college. I would make myself go faster even when I thought I could not budge another inch. The applause, warmth and love of the spectators was worth every drop of sweat.
The feats the human body can perform are unlimited and simply amazing. It is so fun to watch the Olympics because you get to see so many different types of people perform acts and athletic endeavors where their physical skills and capabilities are showcased and often stretched to their limits. How one human being can run a 26 mile marathon without stopping or passing out is amazing. Another develops huge muscles and can lift heavy weights which far surpasses their own body weight and mass. Still others perform fantastic feats on the diving board, on skating rinks or in swimming pools. Others win cycling events such as La Tour de France and other events.
Maintaining and challenging the physical body were important to our Greek and Roman ancestors as history reveals. They should be important to us as well. Some of my fondest memories in college are my experiences on the track team. At age 52 I still get natural highs from jogging or walking a few times a week. It is very rejuvenating and wonderful, not to mention healthy, to challenge my body in long runs and to constantly strive to improve my timing. When I ran my first mile in 5.37 minutes back in college I was in ecstasy. I always get a high when I run. I once ran 40 laps on our old upstairs wooden track when the dreamy ethereal music of Debussy was playing downstairs. I simply went beyond myself and moved to another plane. My eyes always get red when I do long runs and I truly feel much lighter. Sometimes, it almost feels like I am truly going to float away. We all need natural highs and sports offers a grand and cheap way to get them.
On my nineteenth birthday I worked two shifts in the restaurant then visited some friends. At three a.m. in the morning I went to the track and jogged six miles. I was lighter than a feather and it felt like I was on clouds. I noted that when I jogged my mind cleared and I would become philosophical and poetic. It was as though the physical exercise cleansed my entire being and enabled me to see with soul vision. I would hear little lines for poems or get ideas for stories when I was out in nature. I would even get intuitive flashes and answers for questions that had been on my mind for some time. It was heaven on earth. It is so great to challenge our bodies to perform and to do things we never think possible. I am also convinced that physical exercise is good for our mental health. My track coach said that he read studies which said that people who follow a regiment of physical activity have far fewer struggles and problems with depression. I can certainly attest that getting up and making the effort to go jogging or even walking has given me relief from the doldrums many times. I had a good friend some years ago, Dave, who said that no matter what, he spends the minimum of an hour each day engaging in some physical activity. Some days he runs, others he lifts weights, plays squash, soccer and other days, he would say, giving me a wink, he engages in more intimate activities with my special lady. I have other friends who say that physical exercise helps them ward off the blues.
Yes, tending to the needs and desires of the human body and keeping ourselves in good physical shape are vital to our health and welfare. But let us not forget that our physical body is not the only part of us that needs tending to, stimulated and challenged. I recall a college Philosophy class where my professor told a story where Socrates (or was it Plato?) tells someone something to the effect, “If you can catch and find me then you can have me. I am not this body.”
It is grand to lose oneself in the passionate embrace of another; to spend hours caressing and making love. We all, or most of us, long and yearn for such intimacy. There is definitely a place for that in our human experience. But I was learning that love is far more encompassing and has so many more faces, flavors and aspects than the physical ones. Are there not other kinds of embraces that could be joyous as well? Can we not mentally, emotionally and even spiritually embrace another and receive some satisfaction from it? I remember going through a phase where it felt like my body was not the real me. It is not the “Real Me” I’d tell Leslie, then smile and say, “now for heaven’s sake, don’t bother asking me who the real me is because I haven’t the slightest notion.” Then I’d add, “But I think I’m getting some hints. I had this idea once for a song, “Won’t you show me the real you?”
Though I did not write the song I felt was somewhere inside me, I still could not stop hearing that phrase in my mind “Won’t you show me the real you?” A couple weeks later I got that urge to write again and the next morning wrote “Look Not Away”
Look Not Away
I hear your voice but I listen not.
Your eyes speak differently to me.
Words that only my heart can understand.
But the moment I begin to grasp them, you look away.
When I watch your lips move
I see the words as they are being formed.
Useless sounds only distract.
I Sometimes need to be alone to be reminded of who I am.
Which means I am all, and I am none.
My life has ended, it has just begun.
I am old, I am young.
People talk when they have forgotten who they are.
They avoid eye contact when you look for
their soul behind their faint smiles.
People are afraid they will be hurt.
Hurt they cannot be.
Their essence is divine.
Some mornings I see my body in front of the mirror.
All I can do is gape.
How sad to believe this body is who I am.
There are times I desire to be rid of it;
when I perceive it to be an unneeded covering
for my free and worthy soul.
Sometimes I forget to love when I hear too many words.
Come nearer and look at me.
Let us renew our love in silence.
Let our spirits touch.
If you would grant me but one wish,
I would ask that you let me experience your essence.
You may ask how.
I will tell you.
Look not away when our eyes meet.
Speak from your heart.
I will understand when I gaze into your eyes.
Look not away.
Look not away.
Look not away.
I read the words after I finished them then I began to hear music in my head. I knew this was going to be a song as well as a writing. I could hear dissonant notes and different instruments playing to highlight different parts. There was the melancholy oboe tones, then a trio of violins played an interlude between another verse. I wanted to get this down but I was no composer. So I settled for singing the tune in a cassette player. How you do play with me, no pun intended, I snickered, dear muse. How very amusing. You ignore me when you wish then when you’re in the mood you give me a writing and a song all in the span of a few minutes. I guess I can muse over that one all day and still not figure you out,” I said, chuckling at another pun.
I reread “Look Not Away” and wondered why I got the song right afterwards when this had not happened with any of the other writings. I played the tape of myself singing the tune. There was a mysterious quality to the song. It sounded wistful and melancholy. I wondered if that was a quality of the soul. I read the final “Look Not Away” lines and thought, so I am being advised to look more at people and ask them not to look away from me. I thought about fantasy stories that said if you look into the eyes of certain wizards and witches that you become bewitched and enchanted. If they get your eye contact you are hooked, one story said. “Look them over real good, but avoid their eyes.” I thought of the myth of Medusa, one of the Gorgons with writhing snakes for hair, who turned anyone to stone who looked at her eyes.
We have all heard the phrase “Love is blind”. Well, I am not so sure that is true I thought. Maybe it’s infatuation that is blind instead of love. Or maybe neither. Heck, I don’t know. Just because a phrase becomes an accepted and repeated axiom surely doesn’t give it automatic credibility. I thought of the metaphor, “My Love is a rose.” Well, you might be a rose or even named Rose, and I’m sure you smell awfully wonderful, but nature’s law says your lifespan isn’t very long. You can even call yourself Rosie, Roseanne, Rosa, Rosalinda, Rose of Sharon, or you can even a- rose from the dead if that is your cup of tea. But I doubt it would be for long anyway since nature did not deign it that you live very long. So why bother coming back for seconds?
“So maybe my Love better not be a rose,” I told Leslie later, evoking a snicker out of her. “Maybe, instead, Love ought to be a pine, then I can pine away for her all year since she is ever green. Or maybe Love can be a cedar (see da). “See da Rose and be charmed by her beauty,” I went on.
“Stop the silly puns,” Leslie insisted, “you are going to make me laugh silly.”
It was amusing to make jokes and have some lightheartedness, but the truth was “Look Not Away” seemed to confirm some of the ideas and things I had been pondering and considering. It felt like someone was inside me watching my every thought and monitoring my ideas, then they string a bunch of words together in “a writing” and let me see things in a little different and perhaps even better light. The part about seeing my body in front of the mirror and gaping, how sad to believe this body is who I am, was no surprise. There has always been a strong part of me that knows I am far more than my physical body. Yet, like so many others hungry for love, I spent and wasted so much useless time, attention and energy concentrating on satisfying the whims of my physical body when at times it was not even necessary or appropriate to do so.
True, many women feel treated like sex objects by the men in their lives, and some men feel that way as well. How many times have we all made physical advances when the moment really called for something else. Something else which would not have diminished intimacy, but rather enhanced it. I recall that first week I met Mary. Initially, I played my old game of trying to impress her. Our initial contact was at the public library. She was sitting on a bench in front of the library with a French book in her hand waiting for the library to open. I had just graduated with my B.A. in French, and had returned from a semester studying abroad in France. So immediately I rattled off a bunch of French, hoping and assuming that at least I would catch her attention and maybe even get a date.
Mary was polite and cordial, but I could tell that my fluency in French did not impress her. The neat thing was that she steered the conversation into other directions, and before I realized it, I was enjoying this mental intellectual excursion with her. It did not take long to realize that Mary was well read and possessed a true love for literature, philosophy, psychology, music and loved to discuss them and challenge ideas that most people accept without thinking otherwise.
A day or so later we met in an empty room in the Psychology building and continued our deep long conversations. I recall at one point when Mary was looking at me, her honey blond hair shining like the sun, her eyes twinkling at me in what seemed fascination and wonder. Sure, she was attractive and sexy I remember thinking. But thanks to the way she responded to me on that first meeting, I was content to enjoy another kind of communication. At one point she simply became quiet and gazed at me intently. I continued babbling on whatever psychological or philosophical idea I was wound up over. She was still looking at me. Her continued silence began to make me a little ill at ease. Finally, I asked her what was she thinking. I expected her to tell me that she was pondering some idea or concept difficult to express in words. Or maybe she was reliving a scene from some play or novel that impressed her. Maybe she was even recalling some poem, or song or taking a mental stroll down memory lane. Her response totally floored me. “What are you thinking?” I asked her a second time.
She smiled, then nodded and gave me what I sometimes call “the naughty and sensual look.” She rubbed her hands through her hair, and her tongue ran over her moist lips ever so lightly and sensually. Then in a soft voice she said, “Well, to be totally honest, Michael, “I was just thinking how wonderful it would be if you kissed me.”
I nearly fell out of my chair. Sure I was attracted to her, and had been having fantasies about her, but I had not voiced them. Needless to say my resistance was very low, and soon we were kissing. It was a wonderful experience, but I still remember that part of me felt the timing was wrong. That was definitely a new one for me. In the past I would have put the make on her the first date, well perhaps I would wait until the second one. Later I felt a little guilty and wondered if giving into the physical desires was the right thing to do.
“Look Not Away” reminded me that there is much to our being than our physical bodies. “I see the words as they are being formed. Useless sounds only distract,” I read again. “People talk when they have forgotten who they are. They avoid eye contact if you look for their soul behind their faint smiles.” I thought about a phrase I once read in the “Tao de ching” “People who know do not speak. People who speak do not know.” How many of my words are useless, I wondered. I knew that I often babbled when I was uncomfortable. My mother once said I came out of the womb talking and have never since shut up. My dear former opera coach and friend Janette said I nearly drove her nuts on that trip to Aspen, Colorado she took me and three other students on. I never stopped talking. She had never heard anyone who could go for hours and not take a break. I thought of boring cocktail parties where people make small talk. How can one win someone’s favor or attention by such trite, boring talk I wondered? And yet I had done that very thing on many occasions.
“They avoid eye contact when you look for their soul behind their faint smiles.” I read again. I liked the idea of looking for the soul even though I was not sure one could find it. I wondered what theologians, and ministers would think of such metaphysical musings. What would be their responses if I asked them how does one look for another’s soul? In spite of my religious background and being a Baptist for 10 years, I again welcomed this concept that we possess a soul, or as one person said, “We don’t possess a soul, we are a soul having a human experience.” I found that very interesting.
I read on, “Sometimes I forget to love when I hear too many words.” I certainly could identify with that. Usually the words I was hearing were my own. I recalled a short verse I wrote in tenth grade, “Dear mind, don’t you mind, be kind and shut up so I can finally unwind.” I tapped my fingers and wondered if that might make a cute little rap tune. “Let us renew our love in silence. Let our spirits touch.” I read. That line I really liked.
“Metaphors can be so juicy,” Leslie told me when I shared 'the writing' with her.
“But maybe they really can touch,” I pleaded. “Who are we to say that this is impossible. I thought of the scene in the movie Cocoon where the alien and Steve Guttenberg engage in an energy exchange where their souls and sparks really fly as the saying goes. That scene made me think that human physical lovemaking is nothing compared to what soul mating is. Can our spirits really touch?" I asked Leslie again.
“Impossible, not logical or plausible.” she said, in her serious Mr. Spock imitation, and we had a good laugh.
“Let me experience your essence,” I read. Feels kind of similar to let our spirits touch, I thought. Just what is our essence, the true essence of our being, our mind, our emotions, our souls? I could feel a deep philosophical mood coming on. So Leslie and I talked until the wee hours of morn and toasted to what we called “the seen or unseen joys of two spirits touching.”
I reread “Let us renew our love in silence”. “Yes, I need to do much more of that. The mind needs to be kind and shut up so I can unwind. And the tongue needs to take a long winter’s nap as well, I told myself. Then I read “Look Not Away when our eyes meet. Speak from your heart. I will understand you when I gaze into your eyes.” How many people find it difficult to maintain eye contact without becoming uncomfortable? I recalled the Psychiatrist I was seeing at age 14. A huge mirror covered the entire front wall of my office. I hated that mirror and wished so badly that I could smash it to smithereens.
“I guess he really wanted you to take a good look at yourself and your life,” Elizabeth said when I told her about it. Seems a strange way of doing it though”.
“More like he left you with no choice,” I replied.
I hated every “mirror session”, and for years before and after therapy with the psychiatrist who I call “the mirror man” I could never look anyone in the eye for very long. Likewise, if anyone looked at me for more than a few moments, I became uncomfortable; sometimes even to the point of paranoia. After being sympathetic, Elizabeth tried to make a joke. “Well, I guess you could say you were one complex man at the time. Your shrink just gave you one more complex, didn’t he?”
“Boy did he ever,” I responded, chuckling.
I remember telling another therapist, when she asked me what my goals were, and what I wanted to accomplish from therapy, that I wanted to be able to hold eye contact and be able to see people looking at me without becoming squirmy and nervous. I found it took great effort at first to not immediately look away. And when I looked away from someone who was looking at me, often they looked uncomfortable and likewise turned their eyes away from me. But I was determined to get better at it so I kept at it.
One breakthrough was a day on campus when this not very attractive girl kept staring at me. I was sitting in the student lounge reading a Balzac novel when I noticed her. I smiled at first, then quickly looked away. She continued looking at me. This went on for what seemed several minutes. Finally, I could take it no longer and was about to tell her to take her stare elsewhere. Instead, I just stuffed my book in my backpack and started walking away. I made myself walk past her. I just had to see if this audacious, strange, unattractive girl had the nerve to look at me one more time. She did. This time I could take it no more. I used all my self restraint not to be rude and I asked her in the most cordial tone I could come up with, “Why do you keep staring at me?”
Her face went beet red. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “That really was rude of me. I didn’t mean any harm. It’s just that you remind me of someone.”
Well even if she was lying at least she was making an effort to not appear impolite so I looked at her and said, “Who?”
A forlorn look came over her face. “Someone I used to know,” she said so softly I could barely make out her words.
“Who?” I repeated, feeling more impatient.
“A very dear friend,” she said, “a very dear friend who died last summer. You could pass for Michael Jones’ twin.”
I did not bother telling her that we also shared the same first name. Then I somehow knew she was telling the truth, and I felt very bad. “I’m so sorry,” I said, “Please accept my apology.”
“I am the one who should apologize for staring,” she said in that gentle tone. “It’s just that we were so close, like brother and sister, no more than that; we were soul mates. We were never romantically involved, but we loved each more and had a better relationship than many so-called couples.”
“I'm glad to hear you were lucky enough to have such a good friend,” I said. “I’m sorry to hear he died.”
“Well only his body is dead,” she said, a little more bravely. “His soul lives on and he comes and visits me sometimes.”
That was more than I was ready to hear. “That is nice,” I said, and told her I had to rush because I was late for an appointment. That incident haunted me for a long time. Not the part about her claiming to visit her dead friend. It was the way she talked about Michael being her soul mate that fascinated and haunted me, and their special friendship. I felt that sort of connection with Mary after a short time, and that is why it partly did not seem right when we pursued romance so soon. Meeting this strange unattractive girl was another gift for me. It reminded me that there are other kinds of love than romantic erotic love. Equally valid is spiritual love. And equally important that visit with the stranger, she never told me her name, nor I, reminded me that I needed to check out the situation before assuming that someone who was only looking at me was being rude or violating my privacy. Her story could have been a lie, but I knew that it was not. I do not know how I knew. I just knew.
Thinking about that girl weeks after the incident, I had the feeling that she had let me experience some of her essence. She did not look away when our eyes met and her humbleness and honesty helped me to progress in achieving that goal I had made in therapy: to be able to hold eye contact and be able to see people looking at me without becoming squirmy and nervous.
Help can come from the strangest sources and people and when we least expect it. Now I say that it can be most beneficial to watch out and see who might be watching us. Sure, one needs to exercise prudence and caution before approaching strangers, but we need to also be open to the possibility that something good can sometimes result from such encounters. I sincerely and wholeheartedly believe that we all have soul mates, and we just never know when one might be looking in our direction. May we look not away and be constantly reminded that we are not these physical bodies!