Look at me, really

Jacob wrestles with the angel

Annoyance was the only way to describe it. Day after day this past summer in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I walked six blocks from our priory to the office where I was interning. A normal day would include one or two interactions with passersby asking, “What are you?” or some question about the Church. Besides these fruitful conversations, though, I usually received several half-crazed, half-disgusted glares as people gawked at my habit, looking up and down from my neck to my feet without ever making eye contact for me to say hello. I kept thinking, “Sure, I look weird, but can’t these people mute their expressions a little, or at least look at my face just once?”

Annoyance was the only way to describe it, until I had this thought: women go through this all the time, though on a much more excruciating and constant scale. The objectification of women’s bodies throughout the world is wretched and inhuman at best, and I had just been given the smallest fraction of a percent of a taste of what so many women go through on a daily basis.

Humbling was the only way to describe it.

There’s nothing new here: all the time, people obsess over parts at the cost of understanding the purpose of the whole. In high school, I bought a much more expensive iPod merely because it had a larger, easier-to-read screen. People can complain about a car for only having two cup-holders. The boy in the classic Shel Silverstein poem (“The Giving Tree”) so continuously desires the little things that he never seems to appreciate the whole of life or even the generosity of the tree.

Things are to be used, people are to be loved, and never vice versa. No body type, skill set, or 13th-century garment needs to distract us from looking each other in the face and seeing a child of God, loved by him for eternity.

Taking this further, let’s imagine all that God has given us and ask what “parts” we might be fixating on, things that aren’t bad in themselves but are nothing compared to the end that they serve. In various jobs, do we depend upon others’ recognition, praise, or encouragement? In prayer, are we constantly seeking consolation or waiting for that right feeling to percolate? At Mass, is our mental stare focused on the right hymns being played, the homily being outstanding, or the lady behind me learning to cool it with the soprano during the Sanctus?

It’s a worthy reflection to consider our mental gawking at what God has placed in our lives, lest we forget amidst all the parts simply to look up, and seek his face.

Image: Jacob wrestles with the angel

You May Also Enjoy:

Contemplative Gaze “It’s quite true that we are absurd and frivolous, that we have bad habits, that we are bored, that we don’t know how to look at anything or understand anything.” - The Idiot Pokémon Go took the country by storm this July, and the effect was visible as the hidden world of gaming came to the public square. While witnessing the swarms of crowds shuffling along the shore line of Indian Point Park in Providence, I was reminded of Br. Jonah’s experie...
How Do You Look? People don’t know how to look anymore. Not in the sense that people are forgetting how to dress themselves (though this is also the case), but rather we are losing touch with an even more fundamental way of looking. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art the other day, a young boy walked past me holding an iPad in front of his face. He was simply recording everything he walked past; for as long as I watched him, he didn’t set the iPad aside to a...
Let’s Eat. Editor’s note: This is the first post in a series highlighting the corporal and spiritual works of mercy during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Like any good native South Carolinian, I’ve spent a healthy amount of time in Charleston, one of the best cities our country has to offer. Its natural charm and consistent upkeep on preserving its cultural identity as an old Southern city render it nearly impossible to avoid whenever it isn’t overladen wit...
A Discerning Eye My father once remarked that after years of eye exams, he had memorized the eye chart. This level of mastery of the material would guarantee success on an algebra or biology test, but it is not helpful in an eye exam. Unlike other tests, the goal in an eye exam is not to give the objectively right answers, correctly identifying the blurry letters on the chart, but rather to report how they subjectively appear. As difficult as discerning the ti...
Br. John Thomas Fisher, O.P.

Written by:

Br. John Thomas Fisher grew up in Easley, SC. After becoming a Catholic ​in high school, he studied philosophy and French at the University of South Carolina. Upon graduating, he worked at a bookstore and church doing maintenance for a year before entering the Order in 2013. Brother John Thomas first became acquainted with the Dominicans during a trip in college to Rome. On DominicanFriars.org