Ever since a young age, I’ve loved reading historical novels and non-fiction about olden times. The accounts written by people who actually experienced the events in the books are the most captivating of all. I feel as if those books are a passage way into someone else’s mind. This is not at all creepy; it’s just a matter of seeing through someone else’s eyes.
Even though I experience this type of empathy with biographies and historical accounts, I’ve picked up on it when reading technical texts. These are more of a stretch because I must consciously try to understand the subject matter from the technicians’ perspectives. For instance, when attempting to digest maintenance instructions for my Toyota, I try to envision the manufacturer’s assembly line and how the workers and robots put the component together. This is a personal quirk, but in most instances, it works for me.
I used to relieve boredom by escaping into the world of books. The public library became one of my favorite haunts. I’d become intrigued by a particular subject and read every book about that thing the library had. Even if the authors were not famous or the subject might not have practical use in my life, I couldn’t resist trying to experience how the writers experienced it. Seeing the subject through their eyes made my own world a little larger.
My reading experiences are not exclusive nor unique. I believe other passionate readers love to see the world through authors’ eyes. Of course, this type of empathy is not restricted to the written word; it is present in the arts, stage plays, films, television shows, videos, and audio presentations. The theatre of the mind is the greatest theatre of all. Most people love these experiences without trying to analyze them.
When we take the time to ponder what we experience and how we conceptualize various aspects of the world, we realize that much of what we understand comes about through seeing through other people’s eyes. We have the ability and knowledge to see the existance of stuff that exists or has existed in the past. Doing so with objectivity, we can pause or mentally step away from concepts and opinions. This allows us the space to discover insight about why we believe what we believe, why we think how we think, and how we might appear to other people. This cessation of habitual thought is an effective way to view the world from our own eyes in the manner of seeing the world from other’s eyes. Such insight is helpful in the creative process as well as enabling compassion towards the Earth and living beings.
Eventually, one arrives at the conclusion that everything we see is a mental construct or illusion. What we experience through our senses, is fabricated through the mysterious workings of the brain. We take for granted that what we see, smell, taste, feel, and hear are solid and physical. We can then extend this understanding to the knowledge that everyone else’s brains are fabricating their own versions of reality, too.
We can take these realizations along with attention to our own mental analyses and discover how our concepts of reality are shared processes. Our mental filters are formed by what we have been taught by others in conjuction with our personal experiences. We see the results and discover the power of insight. We might label this as empathy–the gift of seeing what other minds have fabricated their own worlds. We realize that our illusions cannot always be taken at face value.
Most of us could go through life at a basic, survival level–never truly “seeing” anything beyond the surface. Then we meet certain people–teachers, elders, children, people from different cultures. People who envision the world with eyes that conceptualize in ways we have not yet discovered. By hearing, feeling, and seeing through such people’s eyes, something is communicated from mind to mind. We are especially fortunate when seeing though someone else’s eyes triggers an epiphany.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes writer, Bayode Ojo. “Greatness does not approach him who is forever looking down. My eyes are seeing through what the ordinary men call a mirage!”