In the midst of my daily neurosis, as characterized by incessant thinking, scheming and analyzing, my eyes lay hold of a child. My attention is arrested. This petite human being cradles a found object in her cupped hands. She presents it to her mother and reveals a curved leaf that extends outward as if it had wings to fly. She invites her mom to gently stroke the 'swallow' that she saved from being trampled. I look at the mom. I pray she suspends her disbelief and nurtures the fiction proffered by an unadulterated mind.
At once I am overcome... such 'purity' that emanates from the child’s countenance. A purity that is common to most children, say below the age of three. Their gaze is untethered to regrets and acerbic memories and unencumbered by worries of what their future should be. They seem to look at YOU. Not you, with your narratives of self doubt or faux confidence, but you as a cluster of atoms—a locale in space where light illuminates your human skin and the wind lifts your hair and exposes your shiny and balding forehead.
A child's peculiar gaze is a billboard for the profundity of the present moment.
But then they age. Slowly but surely, mistake by mistake, victory by victory, insult by insult, praise by praise and ridicule by ridicule, memories and stories about who they are and how they perceive themselves in relation to others are lodged in the brain.
I gaze out over the harbor. A thick fog amasses on the Atlantic and soon envelops me and the city behind me. It veils the surrounding environment in the same way as our thoughts veil our experience of the present moment. We either frame this moment with regrets of the past or with concerns for the future, but rarely do we, like a child, perceive the moment naked, without a frame.
We say that the eyes are the window to the soul, but the specter of the self, our identity, hides not in the darkness of the retina, but in the semblance of the 43 muscles that surround the eyes, mouth and cheeks. Each of them contract or relax in response to a thought.
What a gift you have to offer a friend in conversation, which is, much like the semblance of a child: Fully present in the moment, untethered to regrets or concerns. I suspect, to the other person, it would look, very much, like love.