The world’s a big place, a giant ball of green and blue, harboring life, harboring us, humans. More than seven billion souls roam the earth, indulging in daily activities and experiencing life in a thousand different kinds of ways. In a world so crowded, the meaning of those three words, “I see you,” takes a lot more weight.
What defines you as a human being? What is the difference between you and me? What does it mean to be you, and what does it mean to truly see? If I were to introduce myself, I would be tempted to say that I’m a computer engineer, as well as a writer. It is not false, but is that truly all that I am?
When we introduce ourselves, we tend to focus on the present, on what we’re doing at the moment. We label ourselves with a job title, sometimes as a cat lover, and so many more. When in fact, what makes us the unique being that we are, is our past, or rather the choices we’ve made.
You are the compound of your experiences. We all are. And to truly see someone is to see past the shell of the present, past the flag of the future, to reach History and what lies within.
History is defined as the study of change over time. And the law of conservation says that “nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed.” Thus, history is never lost, it is just transformed, a hidden gem in the present, and that’s what truly defines us. How to see it?
Care a Whole, Whole Lot
I’m not talking about kindness. We are kind toward what we see, but kindness in itself cannot unravel the veil of the past. I’m talking about love, but not the one commonly known. For this love is a two-way street, rooted in two desires, to give and to receive. Go further, to the realm of selflessness.
And this is not about being concerned with the wishes and the needs of others. This is about using selflessness to put aside your preconceived ideas of life, to forget any kind of rewards, and truly embrace the being in front of you, truly connect. And to believe that in and of itself is rewarding.
People are history, and history is people. To truly see someone, all you have to do is to look at them. All the clues are there, in the way they speak, in the things they do, in the smiles they hide, in the words they refuse to pronounce. Remove judgment from the equation, remove comparison too, and you may be able to see.
Life is a choice. All-day, every day. Who we talk to, where we sit, what we say, how we say it. And our lives become defined by our choices. It’s as simple and as complex as that. And as powerful. So when I’m observing that’s what I’m watching for, the choices people make.
— Louise Penny
And don’t worry, you won’t lose yourself. In every person we meet, there’s a part of us, a part of humanity we cannot help but relate to.
Listen a Whole, Whole Lot
People say it’s the actions, not the words. But words, or rather the act of expressing them, is also an action. So, listen, not only with your eyes or your ears, listen with your everything.
I don’t know when it started, but as far as I can remember, I was always able to see past the disguises people put on themselves. When I look at someone, my gaze does not only meet their eyes. It tries to go further, to see the pain behind the smile or the love when their face seems sad. It’s not always perfect, but I’m always trying.
Words also can smile, they can be sad, excited, and of course, they can love too. So, even if you don’t see each other, you can still connect as if you were in the same room. Pay attention, be genuine and kind, remember everything you know about humanity, remember that we’re flawed, you and me. Don’t focus on expectations but observe, listen, and interact.
And most important of all, be yourself. Confidence sparks confidence. It’s the same thing here. If you put on a mask, the other will also put on one, so don’t. Before you say to someone, “I see you,” say it to yourself first. If you cannot see yourself, how can you see others?
There’s this quote from Nicole Krauss:
“So many words get lost. They leave the mouth and lose their courage, wandering aimlessly until they are swept into the gutter like dead leaves.“
— Nicole Krauss
I want to add to that. Silence is also a form of expression. It is also a dead leaf, so listen to the silence too.
I See You
We are history, and history is us. We are the reminders of what went and of what is coming.
By looking at you, you’re looking at history: your scars, your jokes, your eagerness, your restraint, or the weight of your gaze, they all are a part of you, the results of your change over time. And it is the same for every human being that walked or will walk the earth.
Listen and be there in the moment. Pay attention not only to what people say but also to what they don’t. Observe too. Some scars are not visible to the eye. Be selfless in your desire to connect, be yourself, and be as genuine as you can.
Everything about you speaks of you. Everything about me speaks of me. I’m looking forward to the day we can see each other, I’m looking forward to the day we can both say, “I see you.”
Inspired by Matt Haig’s book, How to Stop Time.