100-Mile Stare

hundred mile stareA 100-Mile Stare involves looking forward as if seeing an object 100-miles away without engaging what is right before us.

Recently, a friend and I spoke of his side job as VIP security for a country music festival. He mentioned how he responds to the chaos and distractions of his job – protecting the musicians from eager fans – with a 100-Mile Stare. This resource made so much sense in the rowdy music festival environment. Cowboy hats, well-saturated folks, and merrymakers bobbing before the stage can easily distract him from his mission of protecting the talent.

I’ve been thinking since our conversation about how what is effective and prudent in the stampede of fans, too easily becomes a shield or wall between us and the people – the real world – around us.

I know the 100-Mile Stare and as a woman who has traveled continents, decades, and city blocks alone, am well-versed in its wizardry of disengagement. 

  • Climbing the Berchesgarten peaks alone one November, I encountered all sorts of lovely people except for that one super-creepy guy who tried every language and tactic to get my attention. My radar pinged soon after making eye-contact with him and he tried to follow me for a while through the mountainside streets. I had to invoke the 100-Mile Stare and a bit of fancy footwork to dodge him which included running into the train station bathroom for at least an hour to wait him out.
  • Some days are tougher than others. This year, I had a tough day that included sloshing coffee front and center on my shirt. You know, most people don’t care, but I was embarrassed and employed the 100-Mile Stare as I walked over campus with an ad hoc java-crafted Rorschach Test on my shirt.
  • Even in Manhappiness, we encounter people and situations to which we have no answer or freedom/will/ability to help. Neighbors we don’t yet know who are down on their luck, the world-weary veteran and her therapy pup in front of the grocery store, a person whose hunger has been temporarily quenched by drink…this is where my 100-Mile Stare gets the most work out. I am afraid, unsure, unable…wanting to stay un-engaged and pull on my 100-Mile Stare hoping to become as invisible as the people with their sorrows seem to be to most. This is when the 100-Mile Stare becomes a problem.

We see the people. We hear their cries. We unwittingly bear witness to their sorrows. Solutions or means to ease sufferings seem so great and out of our comfort zones so we whip out the Stare as a buffer around us.

The news speaks of an agonizing repeat of history. We don’t have experience with that brand of suffering or sideways glances so we draw upon the tools of the 100-Mile Stare to stay disengaged and excused from the conversation. We feel safer from behind the Stare than within the painful conversation.

What happens when we abandon the 100-Mile Stare? 
Where are we led when we stop and take notice?
Is healthy community worth the risk?

I don’t know if you employ the Stare or something else which protects your position of relative safety and import. It seems most of us, however, do choose to not see and to forget more often than we choose to engage.

We then wonder how “it could get this bad” when it has always been so though we never saw it before. We want an excuse to avoid interaction and fully taking our place in the now – the fully present in what is – than the shadowlands of what we wish were so. These shadowlands are where everything is equal, we all share the same opportunities and risks, and I am always a good person doing right things.

We want to sleep while the world wrestles overhead.

Here is something I have learned: the 100-Mile Stare will not save us from the sorrows and mess of the many. It serves only to further isolate us and alienate folks in our community.

The 100-Mile Stare allows us to believe we are “better than ____” and to rest in”its not my fault” while too many bleed at our sides – in easy-reaching distance.

This old world will only get better as we begin to see reality in all of its wild beauty, chaos, and sorrow. We can deal with only what we know and we only know what we are willing to see, learn, and experience.

So let’s be brave and set aside our 100-Mile Stare in the everyday. Our actions may then become more than derring do, but the stuff of legend…the stuff of love.

Ask the veteran how she is doing and kneel at eye-level waiting for her answer. Ask if she or her pup are thirsty or hungry. May you pet her pup? Let her know you see her. Be seen by her, too.

That man wobbling down the alley may not be drunk at all. He may be carrying injuries unseen and hoping to show his young daughter what community can emerge from a few yahoos firing up 4th-of-July fireworks. When you welcome him to the adventure, you may witness fresh leadership in the folks at hand.

Perhaps as folks renounce our 100-Mile Stares, we will be the people finally seen and later loved into greater community which is a magic of world-changing proportions.

Travel light my friends. Lay down that 100-Mile Stare. Your world is waiting.


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