This morning I’m watching a young guy sketch people on the subway. I’m an observer of an observer. I’m captivated by his surreptitious search for detail and the subsequent concentration in getting what he sees onto the page of his sketchbook.
I get to imagining what the young man’s eyes are seeing in the short amount of time he has to create the images. Line? Space? Plane? Perspective? Or is he, like I so often am, imagining what lies beneath the surface – what is it about that changing furrow in a brow, that curl of a lip, what thoughts are washing over that face looking at itself in a window’s reflection?
The artist is young enough that I can guess he is still at the point of the former, working to strengthen his skill before attempting to convey the layers of his subjects’ humanity into his drawings. But then I also expect that the more an artist becomes accustomed to seeing, the more evident those layers become. So what is going on under those lines and planes must be evident at some level of his consciousness.
As I watch him, aspects of tunnel walls and station platforms move in shifting formations in the window behind him, and people move in and out of his space with that air of muted resignation that morning commuters always have. What I see is a young man in a bubble; a bubble in the middle of a busy transit system, in the middle of rush hour, in the middle of a big city, amongst thousands of people, most of whom are working very hard with various means to ignore and avoid the unpleasantness of experiencing each other. And I feel grateful to have encountered this one person who is striving to do the opposite – to see them.
And for that, the young man seeing is beautiful thing number 27 of 101.
In my last post I talked about how important stories are in how we understand and see things, and the impact they can have on individuals, communities and societies. Telling stories about ourselves gives us power in that we can articulate where we place ourselves in the world and in our communities and families, and we can then see how to make changes or enhancements. Telling stories about ourselves takes us out of a sea of faceless population and validates our experiences. Telling our stories puts our voices out there into the grand dialogue of history
The problem of AIDS in Africa is huge. Mind bogglingly huge. So huge most of us have difficulty wrapping our brains around it and we tuck it in the backs of our minds as "way over there on a distant continent" with our, probably quite sincere, hopes that it will eventually go away. We might contribute money to the problem but we probably feel it's like throwing a penny in a giant, bottomless well.
But then you encounter a single story about one doctor and one man, and the problem is no longer a sea of faceless people on a distant continent, it is one person. One man who might have a lot in common with you and me. And you might think that penny didn't fall into a vast well, it went to help one real person.
I dare you to not be moved by Maithri's poetic prose and his stories of love and compassion and hope while he works to help one person at a time - and seeing a world of possibility in each one.
Read his latest story here: On difference.