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Sunday, April 21, 2013

People cannot be "read"

My brother once told me that he wished we wouldn't automatically read any text our eyes fell on. For instance, on the road, we continuously read every sign, every billboard, every shop name that our gaze goes to, even if we don't really want to know what it says. - The mere act of viewing it makes us read and comprehend as long as it is a language we know, and this according to my brother can get exhausting. It seemed like a weird idea to me because I anyways can't read things unless they're close enough and usually wish I had a permanent magnifier attached to my eyes, but it struck me that when we are in a foreign place, where we don't know the language of the street signs and billboards, we are free of the "burden" of constantly reading everything because we just don't understand the language!
I wish we could look at people that way - just look at them and not "read" or try to "understand" them. Not make assumptions about what they're like, what are their intentions, what they think of you, etc. I wish we could look at and engage with them in the same way we do with a foreign language. We learn slowly, one phrase, one verb, one tense at a time, and we're never quite sure of our knowledge until many years have passed. We explore it layer by layer, rather than all at once. We go slowly but surely.A lot of times, we give up because we realise that it's not for us, and that's completely okay because we end up cherishing the little bit that we do learn.
But with people, we often feel that one meeting is enough to get a general idea of them. that a few conversations give us insight into what they're like and what are their intentions. We go fast, ripping apart layer after layer of their personality without stopping to properly understand anything at all. In this age of the internet and cell phones and instant, constant contact, we think we can know people quicker and better. We look at people and automatically read them, just like we look at text in a familiar language and involuntarily read it.
Is that why it's called Facebook? We look at faces and read them like books? I wish we wouldn't. Because isn't it exhausting?