When I sat down in Arena Theater, in the black box where I had acted and built sets and stage managed for my four years at Wheaton College, I looked up at the man that had brought me there. He looked at me too. He didn’t smile. Well, at least not in the broad, welcoming sort of way. There was a hint of it at the corner of his cheek. Although, that may have been imagined. His eyes were smiling and open-hearted.
He didn’t greet me in any way. But we did share that look for longer than most folks would feel comfortable with.
To be honest, I was a little uncomfortable. I did feel the need to make him feel more at home; it was, after all, his first time in this place that was a second home to me. Yet, I was left without a way to do that, besides smile, which I did. And then I just continued to hold his gaze for a minute or so longer.
It was new, and uncomfortable, but not foreign. Arena Theater had been for me, and continues to be for others, a place of open-hearted gazing. Relationships were built on this idea that we looked at each other with intention, even wonder. What is going on with you today? I see you. I notice you. Notice your tears or smiles or giggles or inability to sit still for more than moment.
It was actors’ work. We were actors, after all. We tried to look around with a sense of curiosity. To notice things with intention, with interest. Not assuming the person or situation was the same as the last time we had looked at it.
He told us about the “gaze of the elephant.” I don’t remember whose story it was, perhaps he didn’t say, but someone had told him to look out at the world in the way an elephant does. Continue reading “So What About an Elephant?”