We scarcely know how much of our pleasure and interest in life comes to us through our eyes until we have to do without them; and part of that pleasure is that the eyes can choose where to look. But the ears can’t choose where to listen.
―Ursula K. Le Guin, Gifts
And what about the lovers who spend hours staring into each other’s eyes? Is it a display of trust? “I will let you in close and trust you not to hurt me while I’m in this vulnerable position.” And if trust is one of the foundations of love, perhaps the staring is a way to build or reinforce it. Or maybe it’s simpler than that.
A simple search for connection.
To be seen.
―Nicola Yoon, The Sun is Also a Star
“I live alone,” he said simply. “I live in the open. I hear the waves at night and see the black patterns of the pine boughs against the sky. With sound and silence and color and solitude, of course I see visions. Anyone would.”
“But you don’t believe in them?” Doc asked hopefully.
“I don’t find it a matter for belief or disbelief,” the seer said. “You’ve seen the sun flatten and take strange shapes just before it sinks into the ocean. Do you have to tell yourself every time that it’s an illusion caused by atmospheric dust and light distorted by the sea, or do you simply enjoy the beauty of it? Don’t you see visions?”
I hear the Wind Woman running with soft, soft footsteps over the hill. I shall always think of the wind as a personality. She is a shrew when she blows from the north — a lonely seeker when she blows from the east — a laughing girl when she comes from the west — and tonight from the south a little grey fairy.
…And the barrens were such a splendid place in which to play hide and seek with the Wind Woman. She was so very real there; if you could just spring quickly enough around a little cluster of spruces — only you never could — you would see her as well as feel her and hear her. There she was — that was the sweep of her grey cloak — no, she was laughing up in the very top of the taller trees — and the chase was on again — till, all at once, it seemed as if the Wind Woman were gone…
Most of us navigate the world principally by our sense of sight. What if we expanded our sense of touch?
This remarkable video, directed by Wiland Pinsdorf, is an exploration of the Brazilian city of São Paulo, a concrete jungle teeming with people. We see the tall buildings sandwiched together, the cars threading their way between them, people in the maze of public transportation and walking the busy streets. We see the marks of urbanization, graffiti that challenges the status quo and cars mired in traffic. Our eyes tell us that life is cold and hard here and that people are trapped into the rat race of what is expected of them and what they can expect. A blind man walks alone down the street with his stick, picking his way calmly and safely through this metropolis.
Soon we meet our hero, Zico Corrêa, as he takes in the city around him and responds in a way that defies the vision of São Paulo as a maze or a rat trap. He begins to avoid the everyday path and careens off of lamp posts, walls and buildings to get where he is going. Corrêa practices parkour. Parkour is a training discipline that teaches how to get from point A to point B efficiently and quickly, using the body and the surrounding landmarks and structures to move the practitioner across the landscape. Developed from military training on obstacle courses, it seeks to maintain momentum while making intelligent and safe choices. The practitioner must understand his environment and his own body, never underestimating or overtaxing either to the point that he injures himself, which can happen very easily at any time should his concentration or execution waver. He must see and understand what awaits him at every bend, every jump, every alteration in course.
Corrêa must use not only his eyes, which may daunt and deceive him–look at the misleading reflections caused by water and glass and imagine the fear most of us feel when faced with a wall or exposed on heights–but his sense of touch. Like the blind man, he must be sensitive to surfaces and subtle changes that will determine his stride, his grip, and what type of motion he will employ. When negotiating a climb or descent he must break it down into small, manageable steps. He must know how to slow himself down or take advantage of his momentum by tumbling. Failure could easily result in death. Parkour isn’t something to be done on a whim, but requires strength and flexibility that require training as well as a great deal of planning.
Most of us won’t be practicing parkour any time soon, but we can appreciate it and the metaphors it gives us for life. It reminds me not to trust my eyes completely, but to test and feel my world through touch and experience. We are all cowed by the obstacles around us from time to time and can always use the reminder that there is more than one way to do something and that the path of another may not be suited to our combination of strength and flexibility. This journey of life is unique for each one of us and we must each negotiate our own ascents and descents.
Well, if pirates are bad,
And vampires are worse,
Then I pray that as long as I be
That though I sing of Vampirates
I never one shall see.
Yea, if pirates are danger
And vampires are death,
I’ll extend my prayer for thee-
That thine eyes never see a Vampirate
…and they never lay a hand on thee!
― Justin Somper, Demons of the Ocean
Join us this week for an exploration of vampires and the fears that lay behind them.