Meeting a person’s eyes:Levinas in ordinary life

Jean-Baptist_Camille_Corot_Breton_Woman_With_Her_Little_Girl

corot woman

Corot

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Face-to-face

The face to face encounter and its ethical meaning/implications is at the heart of Levinas‘ thought.Just today I was thinking over some personal events relating to this.

A few months ago I went into a cafe and found myself just behind an ex-colleague whom  I regard [note the word] as friend.I could see her husband sitting at the back of the cafe.She did mutter,Hello,but  instead of  meeting me eye to eye and  saying,”my husband wants to be alone”,she went through an elaborate pantomime of mime indicating rejection or keep a distance…which was unpleasant.I would been much happier with a straightforward look and a few words.

Today I had a similar event.I met a woman who used to be my physiotherapist ,again in a queue.She looked at me full on and greeted me  with pleasure.As she picked up  her tray she asked me to join her and her husband plus a grandchild.We had a pleasant time,But if she had said,we are with our family,or whatever,that woulded have been fine too.because she looked at me

I am not saying the first woman ought to have done that.But what interests me is the lack of a willingness to “meet” me with her gaze.I  am entirely happy if people wish to be alone whilst the have coffee but I prefer them to say so.

Some individuals with autism are almost unable to make eye contact…. and this is because others are not real to  them,If we are near someone who will not meet our eyes,it can convey the same feeling.On the other hand,every one has off days and so I feel no anger,just a discomfort as this woman is very articulate and highly educated.I think her husband is quite controlling.

So this made me think about Levinas and about Martin Buber‘s I and Thou

There is also an expression,”he looked right through me”which is also a negative way of facing someone.And also,Cutting someone dead.

Essentially not looking at someone is a form of killing them as you imply they are not part  of society.Like not responding  to someone verbally or in writing.You are saying,You do not exist.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Meeting a person’s eyes:Levinas in ordinary life

  1. Reblogged this on How my heart speaks and commented:
    Intriguing

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