Photo: “Alone” , by Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan
Last night we were at the mall. It was past 7, it already got dark and but the artificial light was bathing this little place of the world with its sweet honey color. We were seating on a bench, waiting for a dinner table. We didn’t make dinner reservations and there was a waiting list. It was a beautiful night, calm, people were walking, kids were playing.
And then I saw her.
An older lady, in her late 70s or she might have been 80. I could not accurately guess her age. She was elegantly dressed, all black, black pants and a black long sleeve top. She was wearing heels, not high, but mid heel pumps. Over her black top she had a big piece of costume jewelry, a necklace. Her white hair was short, puffy, a bit like Jane’s Fonda. It was beautifully styled. I think it took a good 3-4 minutes as she walked past us. I felt my heart breaking and I was not sure why. Maybe I saw it in her eyes or maybe I felt it, but I knew that that …..she was alone. Alone.
Me and my family had dinner and a great time….and I forgot all about it. But then, at night, her image came back. I thought about her, I thought about myself and I thought about us, people. I thought about the journey of life and about what we understand while we’re doing it.
Thinking and perceiving
Nietzsche once said that:
“No one can construct for you the bridge upon which precisely you must cross the stream of life, no one but you yourself alone.” Nietzsche
I am thinking…… Alone. But how alone are we? How much of me do you see and how much of you do I see? Do you see me the way I see myself? Do I see you the way you see yourself?
I don’t really know the answer. I do not want to engage solipsism or what other philosophical views are on this subject. I want a practical perspective.
Communication and understanding
Back to my old lady in black. What did I see? I saw grace, beauty, old age, her alone feeling. It truly broke my heart, because this was my image of her. In trying to process what I saw through my own lenses I applied to her my self-avowals and self-ascriptions.
But what if talked to her? Maybe the way I had perceived her would have stayed the same. But also, I might have found out that what I saw was not truly who she was. Maybe she had a family, maybe she had a full life and she was happy.
The way we see is not always the way others see. We all have our own truths. We all want to live in a happy world, but we each have our own definitions of happiness.
Do you see me the way I see myself? Do I see you the way you see yourself? These are questions that we should all think about. In the light of so many social problems, of so many differences in our society, on matters of gender, ethnicity and so many other differences, we should try to understand “otherness”. We are all prejudiced and have our own stereotypes. Some less then others, but we do have them, because who we are is conditioned by our experiences.
I do not know what kind of social structure will best facilitate happiness, but we are all together on this planet. Regardless of how singular our carapace of a body makes us, we are connected into something bigger. If we talk and try to understand each other, then we will live better…..and maybe when feelings of alone will hit, you will find the comfort of all these people around you, who are all the same: alone but together.
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