Look at me

Jing Di, Emperor of China (157-141 B.C., Han dynasty), was considered so sacred that most people couldn’t even bring themselves to use his name, and so he was often referred to as “Foot of the Stair”, because when in his presence you couldn’t look any higher than the bottom stair of his dais. Imagine going through life with no-one ever daring to look at you. Visits to the hairdresser would certainly be interesting…

I remember coming back from a trip to India, and in an email I sent to friend at the time, I noted that it was great to be back in a country where you can walk down the street and no-one looks at you. At least, not to the extent that EVERYONE stops and stares because you’re a Westerner. Obviously a lot of people look at each other in public, but we usually make some attempt at discretion.

But to have no-one ever look at you? Would you miss it? Do you need people to see you? To acknowledge your existence? To feel that you’re part of the world, to notice you, maybe even to smile or make some other sign of recognition or appreciation…

And how long are you comfortable with people looking at you for? How many seconds pass before a glance becomes a stare, before awareness becomes discomfort?