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Quarters-of-a-Second.

I'm in Detroit for the weekend, exploring a new city for a few days before summer comes to a close. Any and all recommendations, if you have them, are more than welcome! In the meantime, I thought I'd share a blurb from an essay by Sheila Heti called "Stealing Glances," which I found courtesy of Cass Marketos, and which describes the anxieties we sometimes feel about making eye contact (and what she calls "quarter-of-a-second-long relationships") with strangers on the street.


We are naturally curious about other people. From the start, as babies, we are drawn to the eyes of our parents. Imagine a cat, neurotically trying not to look directly at a passing cat. We need eye-to-eye contact. We want to see each others’ faces. It is why we take and keep photographs, watch television, hang portraits in our homes. There is something terrible about looking at each other, only to have reflected back our own (and the other person’s) thwarted, repressed desire to look. 

Somewhere we have failed magnificently. Our culture is such that a greater value even than freedom is productivity, utility. I was having a conversation with a friend about leisure, and she was saying how much she enjoys doing nothing, just wandering aimlessly around her house, thinking. “I find it so productive,” she decided. Even an activity we enjoy precisely because it is not about production we must ultimately justify by way of its productivity. This being the situation we find ourselves in, how can we ever justify to ourselves or to each other the value of those most fleeting relationships, lasting at most two seconds long, with a stream of people we will never see again? What is the utility of the quarter-of-a-second-long relationship? 

Find the rest of the esaay, here — it's beautiful. Have a wonderful weekend! Photo by Emily Johnston.
 

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