Where has the gaze gone?
We see and then we look. But there's a transition between, a call to action that causes us to shift.
The word for that shift, as Glück’s quote highlights, is gaze.
We have to be out in the world, immersed in it physically, mentally, and emotionally, to allow ourselves the chance to see something, to be seen. And we have to find a way to look deeper, closer, to pay attention and consider details when curiosity leads us there.
But we also have to nurture the gaze: that moment before we consciously look, eyes locked in, the swirl of sight and thought, a torrent of signals firing in our bodies, a feeling that halts the seeing eye, that locks visual stimulation into place and rushes us towards some heightened level of awareness.
To gaze is to allow ourselves to wonder, to imagine, to consider what if, and explore the barely visible, synaptic connection between ourselves, the outside world, and each other.
Where has the gaze gone?
I would argue the gaze has been misappropriated.
As you move through your day today, take note of when and where you gaze. For the most part, I think we spend a great deal of our day and time gazing at a screen. My phone tells me I spend an average of 2 hours a day on it. 2 hours a day. 2 hours a day! I’m up from 6am until roughly 10 or 11pm, so let’s call it 16 hours of waking time each day. That’s 12.5% of my day spent looking at my phone. And shit, just realizing that doesn’t account for the time on my laptop or in front of the TV. Wow.
Today let’s call more awareness to the absence of the gaze, or should I say the misappropriation of the gaze.
When you snap out of staring at your phone, what do you remember seeing, or thinking?
Mostly, I am unaware of what's been seen, unconnected to any lingering thoughts, unaware of the content I’ve been consuming, unaware of the doom scroll within an endless digital sprawl. I am unable to recall what I've been looking at it, what I thought about it, or what I felt.
I need to remind myself I just gave that time away.
I love zoning out, getting lost in thought, trying hard to pull some remnants of an idea from that spaced out moment. But I find that when I snap out of a long gaze with my phone, I can't trace the string of thoughts and bring back much of anything. When the phone is involved, I lose the afterglow of the gaze as I transition back into awareness of my surroundings. How can we preserve this glorious state of mind that accompanies the gaze?
And if we listen to Glück, “where the gaze is held, voice, or response, begins,” the significance of this call to action from the gaze becomes even more evident, even more crucial to how we engage with the world and each other. The gaze is perhaps the first call to action, our first signal to get going, to keep going.
The gaze connects the seeds of our earliest thoughts, our deepest, most interior thoughts, with the outside world and seeds of love and fear and doubt and hope and joy from deep within other humans.