When I lived in Thailand, occasionally I would go to one of the older malls in Chaing Mai to eat Western food and get a haircut and unsuccessfully look for a bookstore . While there I would sit and write various notes and musings while I ate and look at the crowd of locals going about their own business. It was one of those experiences where one is surrounded by people and yet all alone at the same time, an experience I am quite familiar with in general. All of the tendencies of having layers that others cannot see, of having an intense desire to communicate and the total inability to do it, that mark this life I live were present to quite an exaggerated degree. One doesn’t even know if they saw me at all, if they were simply too busy running around in their own lives to notice the strange and oddly observant farang eating fried chicken and scribbling in a book. Seeing as reading and writing were not activity for fun that I noticed among the Thai people, I would certainly have been seen as an odd farang by anyone who thought to notice me.
I suppose they can be pardoned for not seeing me for who I was. They would have had no category to place me in aside from strange odd foreign fellow. No doubt that is a problem many of us have in dealing with other people and perhaps even ourselves. Where is it that we fit in? What is our place within the world we find ourselves in? What purpose(s) and role(s) do we serve? Some of these questions take a lifetime to wrestle with, and even if we have some idea of where we are going and what we are doing, we have to cope with other people who only see very limited aspects of what we are. Many of the attractive people I know (for I am not particularly attractive myself) often complain about only being valued for their looks and not for who they really are, but throughout my life I have often been valued only for my memory and intellect, and where those qualities were not appreciated, I was not appreciated at all. I am sure those with other gifts have noticed the same tendency to be appreciated if at all for one or a few things, and not for the whole person. For most of us, the whole person is hard to understand and takes a lot of time and a lot of empathy and understanding to see, a lot of communication in depth as well as breadth. Who has the time or interest in all of that? It is far better to say, “She is a beautiful girl” from a selfie, or, “He’s very intelligent” from some scholarly prose or a willingness to answer obscure trivia questions seriously. To see someone for who they are is a far more difficult task that few people are equipped to try.
Yet we do not make it easy for others to know us even if they want to. I know I don’t, and most of the people I know are the same way. Once upon a time I had a local church elder who was a decent fellow whose family I knew somewhat who knew me casually at church for years but with whom I never developed a deeper friendship. He verbally expressed an interest at getting to know me better, but there was no way I was going to have any kind of deeply personal conversations at church, and we simply never saw each other outside of church. Why he never thought to invite me over for a meal is beyond me, as that would have been the place he would have been seen me in all of my quirky natural glory, but I was not going to suggest the idea to him. Far be it from me to make it easy for others to get to know me, after all. Who is to say that if people saw beneath the quirkiness and the friendly smiles and saw the deeply anxious and deeply sensitive person beneath the rapier wit and cynical sarcasm that he would have been understanding enough to handle it? Who is to say that of so many young women with whom I have exchanged gallant and witty conversations and flirtatious friendships over the course of my lonely life? Who is to say that of family members who looked at me and pondered about what was inside, who knew or suspected that there were depths to my nature that they could not even fathom, but who did not see me? Nor am I alone in this.
I have often pondered what it would be like to record a music video for the Keane song “You Don’t See Me,” off of their underrated third album “Perfect Symmetry.” The video I had in mind would show me sitting or generally moving around slowly singing/lip syncing with the music while standing at a park by a river (there are plenty of choices for that here in the Portland area) while blurry and out of focus the crowd of people through the day would rush through the scene entirely ignorant and unaware of my presence as the day would course from sunrise to sunset in isolation and mutual incomprehension. I suppose it would be the sort of thing I would think of, and not being a video editor or director I do not know how easy it would be to capture that mix of isolation and hurry that fill up so many lives. We don’t see others because we do not stop long enough to look, and because we are looking for that which does not want to be found. And so it is with we ourselves, unwilling prey whose shyness and timidness is mistaken for coy flirtation and game playing, when that is the furthest thing from our mind.
 See, for example: