This week, I'm proposing that if the author of Ecclesiastes were to write today, he would argue not that everything is meaningless, but that everything is senseless. Because we're living in a world of sensory overload in which things mean less and less.
We're always looking at something. We're looking at television shows, movies, and video games. We're looking at apps. We're looking at statuses and snaps and stories. We're looking at all these things, but we're not really seeing. We're not seeing each other. We're not seeing our world. We're not seeing our God.
Most of the time, if we're seeing anything, we're seeing what we want to see.
A couple of weeks ago, my Facebook feed all of a sudden lit up. Full-on lit up. With stories about the panhandlers in a town just north of me. It's a quiet town and every once in awhile, a man or a woman with a cardboard sign will pop up on a corner somewhere, asking for a little help. Now, I know we live in a world where not all of this is legit; in fact, most of it is probably not. That's probably the panhandler's SUV parked just a few spots away. But what was going around on Facebook was nothing more than fear.
"Have you guys seen the woman that's standing at the corner of such-and-such? DON'T EVEN LOOK AT HER. She has a partner, and they are abducting women and selling them into sex slavery. SERIOUSLY, DO NOT EVEN MAKE EYE CONTACT OR THEY WILL APPROACH." I'm not saying this doesn't happen. I've seen it often...on television. But the truth is that if this were happening in a quiet town in suburban Indiana, the police or the news or someone would be saying something about it. Not some random person on Facebook who has a negative opinion of the beggar.
But this quickly devolved. The next day, it was two guys in a parking lot at a drugstore across town. A few hours later, it was a man and a woman duo in the parking lot at the mall. All with the same warning - do not even look at them. Don't even make eye contact.
All of this from people who, I'm sure, can't get enough of television's creepy, crime-filled dramas or sex-filled sitcoms. All of this from people who are filling their minds with these stories, then seeing them play out before their very eyes. Whether those stories are real or not.
You know what I think? I think we are so busy looking at things that we neglect to look into them. I think we are more comfortable with our stories because we know how they end, because we feel like we get the chance to write them. I think we prefer the product of our own imagination to the reality of a broken world. I think it's easier for us to look at someone and feel fear than to look at someone and ache.
I think if we'd spend time trying to see....
Look into the panhandler's eyes. Do you know how many people have walked by without doing so? Do you understand how invisible she feels? How those few dollars she's asking for aren't about the money? Take a look at the two guys in the drugstore parking lot. That one that looks dragged out? He's been on chemo for the past six months. He's tired, yes, and he looks it. And he just found out that his insurance isn't going to cover any more pills. His buddy, all that whispering they're doing? He's trying to console his friend. The man and woman walking through the parking lot, looking at you? They're looking right past you. They're just trying to get a day out without thinking about their broken lives.
Maybe I'm being a little rosy about these things. I know. I know there are people out there with bad intentions. But does that mean we look and see the bad intentions in everybody? Does that mean we let this broken world harden our hearts? Does that mean we refuse to see the beauty in brokenness? How long can we continue not seeing each other? And how long, not seeing each other, are we willing to not see God?
All this stuff around us all the time to look at, all these things to distract our eyes with, and we've forgotten this one very thing: to see. To stop looking and to see.