• Emily Ott

"It's Good to be Seen"

“Hey there! It’s good to see you!” I say.

“It’s good to be seen”, he replies.

Interesting response, I think.

Most people would just repeat back, “Good to see you too”. To hear the former response, struck me with its simplicity and authenticity. I would argue that the thing we want most in this world is to connect with other people and in order for that to occur, we need to be seen. However, I don’t necessarily think “being seen” is always a literal interpretation. What about the members of our community who are visually impaired? How do they still “see” and how are they “seen”?

I think at the core, it boils down to acknowledgement. We want to be recognized and supported. When a “hello” is exchanged, we are basically saying “I see you”. I love this idea because it means that the mundane greetings we go through everyday actually are so important because they remind us of our humanity. I recently learned that the African Zulu word, “Sawubona”, is in fact a direct translation to “I see you”. This doesn’t just mean a person’s physical body is seen, but rather that their whole being (mind, body and spirit) are being understood and taken in by another equally complex human being. I think that’s a pretty compelling saying if we are striving to work towards a more peaceful world built of stronger moral compasses.

What happens though when a few select people are seen and recognized by everyone? I’m talking about folks like Taylor Swift, Oprah Winfrey, Cristiano Ronaldo, Johnny Depp, Justin Bieber, etc. Famous individuals are seen and acknowledged wherever they go, but can they truly be “seen” in the Sawubona definition? I don’t know if it’s possible. When you are a public figure, you have no personal history with your fans, yet fans believe they understand the public figure fully. The problem is that feeling doesn’t go both ways. The famous person has an unequal relationship with their fans because they know nothing about the details that make up the person on the other side.

Thinking about fame this way, I’ve realized that I don’t really want it. For so many actors and artists, all we want is our work to be received by others. We want to be known. However, when a person gets to a certain degree of fame, they are no longer able to have authentic mundane human interactions like everyone else in the world. The random occurrences of connecting with a stranger are stripped of their day to day.

I challenge you this Thanksgiving week to really take the time to see the people you come into contact with. See them for their heart. See them for their hardships and for their victories. See them for their past and encourage their future. Make a real connection.

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