Obscurity

Why write about windows when I’m thinking about introspection. Windows you look out, quite the opposite to looking in. But, the two have a role to play with each other. Sometimes looking out you can see inside more clearly, as if what reflects onto your eyes is no more than a view in the direction the light is head.

I’ve always had a window to look out of. At boarding school I always had to have ‘my’ window. It wasn’t a window in my room per se. Usually the special window was in a bathroom. I’d use the window to smoke at night. It was a place I could stare hazily into the night. The yellow lamps giving just enough luminance to see the street between them.

At school we’d sometimes climb out of a window onto the roof of the common room of our boarding house. Again, smoke, hang out. Implicitly knowing we were breaking rules, we were boys hanging out. We’d climb back in, play video games and with little sleep, stumble to breakfast (if we went) the next day. We’d break rules in harmless ways, lark about, just faff around.

We once managed to empty the content of another guys room while he was still in it, my friend distracted him while I snuck in and took things to hide around the house, when he went looking for them we cleared out the rest of his room. We bargained with him; he loaned us his TV for a night, we told him where his wardrobe was. Another night we placed alarm clocks around one of the girls rooms, one set for each hour of the night. Coming back from holiday the summer after I saw in the paper that she’d died falling from a cliff while hiking in South America.

One night my roommate came stumbling into the room. We started play fighting and managed to knock the stereo (remember stereos) off the wardrobe onto the floor above the Housemasters bedroom. My friend made it to bed by the time he walked in but, in my naïveté (and inebriation) I decided to pick everything up and stack it away. “What was that noise?” the housemaster asked… I stood there, pointed at the stereo and stared. “Get to bed”. I’m pretty sure he knew what was up but, we hadn’t caused any harm.

My windows were special. I can remember most of them from the age of about 12 or 13. There isn’t a day that goes by in which at some point I don’t find myself staring out some window. All of a sudden I become conscious of staring with a thought lodged in my mind. Those windows were like little holidays, a hiatus of thought.

When I find myself staring at a street lamp or the moon the deep sullen blue of early morning over the sky reminds me there’s a day about to erupt. The solitude is a chance to look at life’s pieces and think. All the things I wish I’d said, the things I never will and sometimes how it will feel when the people I never say the things I want to are dead. It’s a game I play with myself to remind myself that this is life, I’m in it.

Most of the time we’re moving. Get up, get moving. Wake up, wash, dress, brush teeth, motivate (maybe coffee). You’re immersed. Life comes at you and hopefully you take it on. That’s what we’re built to do… Take it on and not look back. Just move toward some end state and hope that we’ve saved enough grain for the winter, had kids, own a home and have someone that makes us smile at the end of it. And all that is pretty fucking fabulous.

But, between those moments a whole lot else goes on. A whole lot of living, feeling, being, fighting, negotiating, envying and regret. Alongside all the joy of course. That’s life.

In all that living those moments can feel absolute. Ideas come and they stick and we walk away with them like we’ve found some answer. Only we find somewhere someone has another idea. Often those other people are right in front of us.

Looking back at relationships I can see in hindsight where I went wrong. But, I couldn’t then because I was there. I think when we say life’s a bitch that’s one of the things we mean. But, that’s because there’s no conversation. No interaction between the moment and reflection. No dialogue. That dialogue takes time and a willingness to be honest and open. And that willingness to be open is the conversation that matters.

The conversation doesn’t end. Travel around the world, know many people, you’ll still find yourself having the same conversations wherever you go. That conversation is one we have with ourselves, the world out there is just a sounding board and its up to us to hear the noise it’s making.

Even our eyes, the things we look at, they’re part of that conversation. So when I find yourself looking out windows, wonder ‘what I was thinking’. What was the feeling before the world leaped from in front of me and woke me from my thought.

That conversation extends beyond us. The world is having it too. What matters? What is good? Who’s the bad guy this time? Why? What will this or that change mean and how will they fit into our beliefs? Are we being lied to? Can we continue to believe the things we know aren’t true? What does it mean to be me on this planet, why does it even matter? They’re all part of a dialogue that makes being human unique. At least human on this world. It’s an ability to reflect that makes us different and it’s also what makes life hard.

I figured out what it was about windows that’s so important to me. It’s not that they’ve always been there, not even that they’re a natural place to sit and stare. It’s that windows, by virtue of being a hole in a wall make a room a room. Windows turn rooms from a box into something else; by suggesting the world they remove you from it.

But, more importantly I realized that I stare out of windows when there’s something on my mind and I don’t know what it is. The last few years of my life the conversation I’ve had with myself has become loud. I’ve spent a lot of time looking out at a tree as the dusk settles over the world and figures itself for night. The street lights appear as suddenly porches.

Even writing now I wonder what conversation I’m having. Not with you reading this but, with the thought that’s brought me to think about windows in this light. The resolution of arguments, the slow negotiations that come after? The unresolved questions that are part of an ongoing dialogue? The observation that truths seems obscured by the many voices in a room, unsettled until the room has one voice? The unending process of discovery as I dig deeper into my motivations? I don’t know.

That must leave little comfort reader. Why read something that will leave so indefinite an answer; such obscurity? Well, that very obscurity is important. Without some comfort with it we are forced to accept half truths. Half truths may be work. But, they’re also half lies. For that reason a little ambiguity known is better than certainty when certainty is anything but complete.

But, more so, contrasting reflection with the smack-bang-in-your-face leaves a pause. There’s an unreconcilable gap left open that exposes us. Prank and laugh and talk and jabber and stand back. Have a conversation and in it you might find something of you in your experience.

2 comments

  • Windows are also for looking in. I guess in looking into other people’s windows, we have an opportunity to trick the moment and reflection into interacting, maybe even dancing and, hopefully, we get to steal a little wisdom early. But, as you say, you have to make space for it.

    • Sarah, first off apologies for the delayed reply to your comment. Your insight is really wise. You’re right… we can learn by changing the direction of our gaze, adopting a different perspective and seeing the world. Really appreciate the thought. Thank you!

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