What do you see when you look at a stranger on the street?
Do you first notice his/her race, gender, size? Do you analyze his/her figure, style, wealth? Do you assess his/her level of threat? Do you make assumptions about the nature and quality of the stranger based on his/her visible qualities?
The answer to these questions might tell us more about ourselves than about the other who passes by. What are our inherent biases, our habits and tendencies, our ingrained behaviors and thought patterns? How do we interact with the world? Are we judgmental or empathetic? Are we fearful or trusting? Are we introspective or simply looking outward without pause or consideration.
Every interaction provides us a mirror. The question is whether we will choose to see ourselves and the constant decisions and opinions that we form, or whether we will ignore the cognitive processes that dictate our approach to our surroundings.
The Tribeca Film Festival recently released a brief but profound video by Jared Knecht that urges us, as its title reveals, to “See Yourself In Others.” As strangers pass one another on the street and in the subway, their heads are replaced by mirrors so that rather than seeing the other, one is faced with his own reflection.
The notion, simple but essential in these contentious times, is that we have far more in common than the superficial differences displayed on our skin. On a deeper level, the video’s message is that we can see ourselves most clearly in the way that we choose to see others.
The Baal Shem Tov, 18th century mystic and founder of the Chassidic movement, put it this way:
“Your fellow is your mirror. What you see in others is a reflection of yourself. If you see a blemish, it is your own imperfection that you are encountering.”
Imagine what our society might be able to accomplish if each of us were this self-reflective.
You can watch the “See Yourself in Others” video here, or by clicking on the image above.
Marc Erlbaum, Contributor