What actually kept my attention was the flock of tourists around me, focused on something else. They stared at the so-called ‘love padlocks’ attached to the Groenburgwal bridge, taking turns to make photos.
I kept watching and wondering what was going on in their minds. Families, couples, individuals, old and young – anonymous faces – making ‘selfies’ and appreciating the view around them. I couldn’t resist and made photos of them.
It was entertaining and inspiring, because that scene asked me a question: What would happen if we could always look at the world, like a tourist does?
How different would it be if we could always and attentively look at ourselves, others and our day-to-day experiences and relationships, with the same curiosity, neutrality, and uncensored and exploratory interest of a tourist?
The conventional tourist shows a rather predictable behavior. Armed with plenty of energy, camera on hand, they are interested in visiting all sites recommended by travel guides. They register with videos and photos the sights that we become indifferent to, as we get used to them with the passing of time. They give importance, and contemplate places we take for granted and perhaps no longer see as beautiful. Invariably they end up visiting and knowing more about our cities and countries than we do.
Perhaps what they see will never be neutral, as people nevertheless assign meaning to everything they experience, and interpret the world as they see it. Still, it is the same place, and same image, that awakens people’s curiosity and desire to remember, and share it later with others, when back home.
As I checked the time, I walked away for my meeting, asking one last question: Can we still remember when we last felt that curiosity when seeing someone or something for the first time, and how we felt about it?
I silently went off with my thoughts, wondering of a world where people are less distracted about themselves, their relationships, their jobs, their neighbors, their cities, their countries, and about all that is happening around them.
Can you remember when you genuinely paid attention and listened to someone on a conversation? To a certain extent, ‘getting used to things’, is what drives people to indifference, making them as much blind or deaf either to beauty or crudeness. They stop asking questions, becoming indifferent to their circumstances, and worse than all, they stop taking responsibility for their destinies or that of their societies.
We could more often exercise the ‘tourist look’ – anonymous, fresh and dis-preoccupied – for tourists seem to carry no judgement in their suitcases but an incredible enthusiasm and children-like curiosity, creativity, attentiveness and fascination for the world.
Let’s think about this.
“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.” Bernard Baruch
“I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.” Albert Einstein