People Watching

I’ve been noticing,  within the context of my own observations, the multi-layered and complex process of people watching.

From our earliest moments as a human being, we learn to distinguish and make sense of the world, by watching  and following the example of those close to us.

It is in those days that our boundaries are set, sometimes for our own safety and in other aspects to develop a sense of community and faith, which attaches us to what defines our being.

Later, and particularly in adolescence, the varying boundaries of peers, in matters such as faith, sex (yes or no!), drugs and alcohol becomes more pronounced.

In my case, the rigidity to those boundaries created within me a propensity to not only judge myself but others too, particularly when my expectations of what was right, and what was wrong, was compromised.

In a sense, it leads us to choose friends who are like ourselves, however, happily for me although some friends swam in the same pool of experience as me, they have taken root and branched out in different ways, which has not compromised, in most cases, my friendships.

In later years, my people watching usually involved a payback in some respect, an attraction confirmed and satisfied, a judgement settled in respect of the behaviour of another, but also a judgement on myself, when I considered myself not man enough to be a proper father.

In my years of darkness – and by that I mean, the isolation and fear of being married with a hidden and growing crisis that I was in fact gay – I had a private and very intense attraction to my own sex – an almost insatiable need to confirm, what I most wanted to deny about myself which lead to feelings of inner loathing, guilt and despair.

In recent years, I am noticing the joy of just observing people.

There is no obvious payback to observing ordinary people doing ordinary things like filling their car with petrol, buying a takeaway or going from A to B.

This connection with the otherness in other people, reflects back to me a growing sense that I am in a world of variety and community, and that I am not an island, I am connected with all the people whom I do not know by virtue of my humanity.

It is a nice feeling to nod as you pass by, or open a door, or give up a seat to an acquaintance – and this becomes possible when people watching becomes a vehicle for respecting others rather than satisfying self.

My next blog will be: In and Out of Routine

William Defoe

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