** No actual plot spoilers below, just some random musings on themes I related to **
“The human gaze is a very sophisticated way of seeing. It’s not like a fixed camera view because the gaze and the thing that’s gazed at are always in a circle of dance with each other. One really co constructs the other. So an awful lot depends on the style of gaze that you use.” - John O’Donohue
I devoured the book Paper Towns this week in anticipation of seeing the movie. I’m convinced the book is ALWAYS better than the movie. The pragmatic side of me just says you can’t fit a book that took 6 -12 hours to read into a 2 hour movie and do it complete justice. But beyond that, I realize how much I adore that MY imagination gets to fill in the gaps when I read. Reading, then, becomes as much of a mirror into myself as a window into the author’s imagination. How timely to recognize this in myself as I read a book that explores how we look at others, and by extension, into ourselves.
There is an interesting dichotomy to the imagination. We often use it to make up ideas about people, smushing them into a two-dimensional plane...paper people...never really seeing them as whole. We often dehumanize others, either putting them down or elevating them above our status in our minds, all the while using labels like good or bad, lesser or better, etc... We don’t allow them the space to actually be who they are. It’s a strange and isolating experience to be the object of idolatry or judgement. I don’t want to be loved or not loved based on the ideas someone has of me. I want to be loved for ALL of me.
“There are so many people. It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and consistently misimagined.” - Paper Towns
But it’s precisely our imagination we need to see people as they really are. Imagination, used in an empathetic way, becomes a more powerful tool. Empathy is defined as “the psychological identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of others.” Or simply put, to walk a mile in another’s shoes.
However, it doesn’t end there. Our imagination is limited as we can never really understand another’s experience, complete with a lifetime of thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. In order for one to really see into you, you have to be able to see out of yourself. Communication is a two way street.
“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.” - Paper Towns