To what degree do we let people in? To what degree do we let ourselves be seen?
To what degree do we want to be in other people’s lives? To what degree do we try to actually see other people?
Sometimes I find myself looking at people as thought they were behind glass; just there to look at and observe. I can watch their movements all I want. They are not hidden–from sight, anyway. But behind glass, yes. Beyond my reach, of course. It is safer that way. No messes. No involvement. But really is gained? One more selfish moment in my life, I suppose. A few more minutes to contemplate my own well being.
And what does it say that I am so anxious to gaze into the lives of characters in the books I’m reading, but am not so quick to jump into the lives of the people that surround me each day?
In “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter,” (sorry, English teachers, I have yet to figure out how to underline a title on a blog) one of the main characters, Caroline, thinks about her daughter with down syndrome: “They’d never really see Phoebe, these men, they would never see her as more than different, slow to speak and to master new things. How could she show them her beautiful daughter: Phoebe sitting on the rug in the living room and making a tower of blocks, her soft hair falling around her ears and an axpression of absolute concentration on her face? Phoebe, putting a 45 on the little record player Caroline had bought her, enthralled by the music, dancing across the smooth oak floors…” (page 162).
There is such beauty in the way that this woman sees her small daughter. The way that she sees the depth and mystery of her young heart; the poetic in the simple and everyday. I often wonder, but rarely follow through, what it would be like to look at people like that. It does bother me that this feels cliche just typing this out. I picture Sunday School teachers in my head (no offense, I have been one), clamoring for us to see the good in everyone. But I guess what I want to look for is not the good, per se, but the beauty. The mystery that is each person.
At the same time, I have to consider if I live my own life in a window. If to be known and understood is one of the deepest desires of the heart, why on earth am I so slow to let that out? (Please pardon all the questions. I warned you this was for thinking as I go.)
This book is so filled with secrets…characters not sharing significant moments of their pasts; building up inner walls around what is actually going on in their minds and hearts. They are left, obviously, in a swirl of thoughts wondering what has happened to all the images they once had of what their life would be, or the shell-like image that their lives have become. It is hard for them to even believe that poetic even exists anymore, unless it is in a cringe-like self realization of its loss.
The interesting twist is that a stranger walks into one of their lives and is able to see it…but does that mean as much? Maybe. Sometimes. But how much more to be able to see those who are intricately involved in our lives? To look past the window of what we think we already know?
My heart hurts watching these characters and the mess of windows in their lives to the degree that I have been tempted more than once to abandon it immeditately and reread the next Harry Potter (in good time, in good time). But I think that must tell me at least a little bit about myself… I am tempted to keep even fictional characters at bay. Aye.