St. Augustine used to write about what he called the “lust of the eyes”- an insatiable yearning to gawk and observe the world, to swallow it whole. A fascination with rubbernecking at the physical – he described as a morbid curiosity. He wrote that animals looked earthward to the mud and the worms , people walked erect so their eyes could look to heaven.
While not a big fan, I know my eyes are pretty gluttonous. Easily distracted by glimmers and flashes. I am thinking about it because I want to open my instagram and leer out at the world. To participate in being outraged by something.
When I was in school I would take so many notes on what interested me. It was like my pages were made of flypaper trying to grasp the ideas and keep them. I had a scarcity mentality and couldn’t resist the lure. Like trying to catch fireflies in a mason jar, I was vigilant to make sure nothing profound or insightful got away without it being recorded somehow. I was an observer to things trying to grasp at them, To keep them. To clutch them.
I was tempted to stop collecting things and words, and just experience things and words. But things and words would dissipate and be gone and I would have no way to remember them.
I have an aunt who takes terrible photos. They were always meticulously sloppy. As an art student it was hard to understand how these photos came to be made. They were more than just snapshot. She didn’t even look through the camera much it seems, the images were oddly cropped, unflattering and blurry. It is like she is pressing a clicker to say this is an important moment I want to remember – the image was incidental, like a thumbprint. I had never seen such ambiguous arbitrary photographs.
I loved to amble around the half priced books, but didn’t trust myself enough to not spend money. I would always force myself into sections of the book store that promised to be safe from tempting me. There were always shelves with soggy romance novels, and books about military history, about Hollywood starlets, occult self help books, yellowed mad libs, wrinkled origami books…..inevitably I would always find a book that interested me regardless of what section I was in.
My favorite game to play when stoned was to try and put off tasting or eating anything for as long as possible. I would hold a pizza slice warm and soft in my hand, smelling the sauce, the steam rising off it, I would lift it close to my mouth but not bite it. The garlicky crust almost brushing my lip before I put the pizza down and continue talking with my hands. Partly it was to see if anyone would notice, but mostly just to see how it felt, to see if I could commit to not eating it. It reminded me of classic tv sitcoms or movies where a family is sitting down to eat, but because there are multiple takes and diets to maintain, all the actors just move the food around their plate, waving their utensils to make it easier to edit. Just going through the motions, but never actually eating.
Years ago I was at a queer rights conference when I worked at a non profit. There were big glass bowls in the lobby that looked filled with red. I was excited because they looked like they were filled with mini Kit Kat candy bars, but were just filled with condoms. I was fairly disappointed, which in retrospect maybe not a healthy way to be. I met a guy at one of the lectures about dismantling the gender binary or something like that. He was really charming, but way out of my league . He made it pretty clear we were going to make out. I was not disinclined to, but part of me didn’t want the humiliation and judgement of my cruddy body. It would be easier and better to watch reality tv instead.