Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Gazing and Staring

One of the great descriptions of Jesus is as the 'Light of the World'.  It is often used, and in many contexts, not least in the New Testament itself.  It's a reminder that God helps us to see things as they are.  Without light we are in the darkness.  Without light we cannot see.  Of course, how we see and what we choose to look at may say a great deal about us.  I have been reading on in John O'Donohue's "Anam Cara" and he makes that very point - "Yet, in a wonderful way, the eye as mother of distance makes us wonder at the mystery and otherness of everything outside us.  In this sense, the eye is also the mother of intimacy, bringing everything close to us.  When you really gaze at something, you bring it inside you.  One could write a beautiful spirituality on the holiness of the gaze.  The opposite of the gaze is the intrusive stare.  When you are stared at, the eye of the Other becomes tyrannical.  You have become the object of the Other's stare in a humiliating, invasive and threatening way."

I find this contrast between the gaze and the stare really helpful.  A gaze carries such a positive connotation.  We imagine ourselves looking at something beautiful, something that moves us.  We might describe this as marvelling at the wonders of God.  On the other hand, a stare carries the notion of being offensive.  What are you staring at?!  It is probably not going to happen, but I like the idea of being gazed at.  It may involve the same amount of looking, but it comes in a different way, and so I am clear that I do not want to be stared at.  If we look to God, we will get our gazing and our staring sorted out.

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