Thursday, November 3, 2011

... but I'm not the only one (-:

"Solitude: a sweet absence of looks."
- Milan Kundera

"We all need someone to look at us. We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under. The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public. The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes. They are the tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners. They are happier than the people in the first category, who, when they lose their public, have the feeling that the lights have gone out in the room of their lives. This happens to nearly all of them sooner or later. People in the second category, on the other hand, can always come up with the eyes they need. Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love. Their situation is as dangerous as the situation of people in the first category. One day the eyes of their beloved will close, and the room will go dark. And finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. They are the dreamers."
(Milan Kundera)

Thanks for the quote from Whiskey River.

I can claim membership in all of these categories.

As an artist and writer, I hope to be seen in the first way but safe and remote like Emily Dickinson or Georgia O'Keeffe, not a public figure.

At first I didn't identify with the second category but then realized that hosting a blog might put me into that category. I don't need that many known eyes looking at me. I'm happy with small internet gatherings of people I know through blogging. We are both anonymous and known through blogging. Paradox. Amanda Wald Rachie is a former name of mine, the one I used when I was most productive as an artist. My legal name doesn't appear on this blog.

I had hoped to spend my life with Richard in the third way of being seen.

I currently live in a variation of the fourth category, beyond my wildest dreams. I don't think we are that rare. Reading about the dreamers brought me the tears and laughter that comes with a powerful feeling of true kinship with those who live in the eyes of loved ones who have died and are not present in the sense they were previously but are not at all imaginary either.

I know there is a fifth category, that of people of who want to be seen by animals as well as people. I'm in that category.

And a sixth category, that of people who want to be seen by Mother Earth and Father Sky. I'm in that category.

I like what George Harrison wrote in one his last songs:

"... I keep traveling around the bend
There was no beginning, there is no end
It wasn't born and never dies
There are no edges, there is no sides
Oh yeah, you just don't win
It's so far out - the way out is in
Bow to God and call him Sir
But if you don't know where you're going
Any road will take you there."


"... God God God
You are the wisdom that we seek
God God God
The lover that we miss
God God God
Your nature is eternity
You are Existence, Knowledge, Bliss ..."

And so there is a seventh category, for those like George Harrison, where wanting to be seen and heard by God is not perceived as imaginary or a matter of organized religion but as a real possibility in an eternity where anything is possible. I can join George Harrison in that creative and open-ended vision of God.

And an eighth category for those who see everything as One, where the looker and one looked at are One.

A ninth category? A tenth category? Beyond that?

Thanks to Milan Kundera for starting me on this riff of categories of being seen.

(Self-portrait on my 62nd birthday a few weeks ago, wearing the gift of a scarf from Dorothy, Richard's sister. Allowing myself to be looked at looking at myself looking at myself looking at myself, infinitely. Funny in the context of this post!)


A ninth category, suggested by robin andrea, "I would like to see myself as others see me." That is one I can relate to as well.


The Solitary Walker said...

Wonderful post. I like the photograph. And I like your extra categories. Myself, I feel a natural affinity with the fourth category although, as you say, many of us have membership - either full, part-time or lapsed - in all the categories.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful post. I like thinking about all the categories. I love the categories you added, most especially the fifth, sixth and eighth.

I would like to see myself as others see me.

And, I like your self portrait very much.

bev said...

Love the photograph too. I am in the third category (Don was my Muse) and the fourth (I like to think that Don and my father still look at me), and your fifth (I must mean something to my dogs).

am said...

Solitary Walker, robin andrea and bev -- Thank you for giving some thought to this with me. As always, I appreciate your comments.

As I write this, I am recalling that as a young child and up until I met Richard, I did not want to be looked at. Although early photos of me show me to be a lively and confident little girl, I became extremely shy by the time I was 8 years old. I remember closing my eyes and trying, with all my heart and mind, to disappear. Classrooms were excruciating for me. I lived in terror of being called on to speak, which for me involved being looked at and potentially criticized.

So there is another category -- those who learn to not want to be looked at or heard. Children are born needing to be looked at and heard. Without that, there is failure to thrive, but with some children that needing to be looked and heard goes away entirely. Maybe that was why I spent so much time in my bedroom reading books and going out walking with our family dog in places where I didn't see many people.

Thank goodness that reading books and walking in the natural world kept me connected to life and eventually led me forward to find that it was safe to be seen and heard in the company of other people. I am grateful to Richard for seeing me and loving me from when we were both 17 until his death at 58. Our relationship began in the third category and lives on in the fourth category. As bev said about Don, Richard was my Muse.