Witness (seeing and being seen)

Nick AdlingtonBlog

Sitting on a bench on the Whitstable sea front, eating fish & chips. It’s bank holiday Sunday and the boardwalk is a constant flow of people walking one way or t’other. It’s a sunny day with an accompanying strong breeze. Just off the coast a kite surfer leans back on his board straining against the wind, before seemingly releasing his body and leaping high into the air. People around wear a sense of relaxation, there’s passing chatter, and idle conversation. The old and the young, babies, pets. Oyster shells discarded into the bin. Sitting watching the summer scene I’m noticing people, not picking out the detail, but just watching and noticing people. There is a sense of calm in my body and a deeper connect in my stomach, I feel at ease here. The word “witness” comes to mind. In observing, and showing interest in people and the world around, there is a sense of witnessing others and their lives. It’s the witnessing of a moment, each moment accumulating on the other to create a deeper sense of connection between these people and me as the witness. I am not in their lives, they are not in mine, yet somehow we are still together. In taking time and noticing the passers-by, I feel specific sensations as a result, data that tells me how I’m doing right now. There is then awareness that the witnessing is a two-way street, from one to another and back, a reciprocal gift. Sitting there it comes to mind the power of just stopping and watching the world around. It occurs that the gift we can all offer, and all need, is to see and acknowledge each other. Simple as that really. We, as human beings, need others to see our lives, to make them real, to give them a deeper field of perspective. Getting the train back to London, I think about the past “postcard” and “self-portrait” projects and the moments of connection in these. The power of seeing and being seen, is sometimes enough in itself. To really see, and to really be seen, brings us into the world.