Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Looking down



When I am out and about, I like to observe my surroundings.  Alot. To the point that I tend to notice silly, trivial things that others may not.  One thing that has always surprised me is the number of people who walk around looking down.  Seriously - eyes to the ground!  I find it very difficult these days to actually make eye contact with people - especially people who appear to be around my age.  And if I can't make eye contact, how can I smile or say hello?

I first noticed this phenomenon (or is it phenomena?) a few years ago when I worked on a large college campus.  On several afternoon runs around the University, I made an effort to make eye contact and smile at everyone whose path I crossed.  On this extensive research, I noticed that the college aged students were more likely to meet my gaze and return my smile.  Others, adults, seem to make every effort not to make eye contact.

I wonder about this.  What is it with my generation?  Is this true across the country? the world?  It doesn't seem to matter if I am on campus or in my own small town.  I think it quite odd - are people afraid to see what is ahead or who they will meet if they look?  Are we afraid we are going to fall or maybe misplace our feet?  Crazy! 

And it is not just people on foot who avoid eye contact.  Today I was at a crossroad and the woman to my left pulled up about the same time.  I was going to wave her to go ahead but she never looked my way, not a glance.  How many good gestures are missed by people simply not acknowledging one another?  How many friendships do we miss out on because we just don't care to look at each other?

Aside from the obvious benefit of not getting in cracked in the head by low hanging branches, looking up allows me to easily identify friends as well as enemies.  Looking up allows me to witness the beauty of the world. Maybe that is why I often prefer animals to people.