If eyes are a mirror into one’s soul, does anybody around me even have a soul? (Sour grin)

Eyes are shifting uneasily, biased and afraid. They stare straight ahead into nothingness, preoccupied and worried, or just inert. They reflect neither joy nor interest, no spark, no life. They are tired and worn out.

All those eyes seem to have forgotten how to shine and smile. They have retreated behind high invisible walls, the impenetrable defenses of shades or the anonymous shelter of a mask. They display a perpetual busy signal and do not show any sign of actually seeing the magical world around them. And yet they constantly navigate through an extraordinary maze of colors, shapes and people, an ever-changing, infinitely complex kaleidoscope which is theirs for the taking.

What a terrible shame getting home after a journey – whether it’d be a day’s commute on the bus or a year-long trek through a strange land – and having seen nothing, having only paid attention to the inner movie of routine, fears and regrets. And the journey doesn’t only happen on the outside. A real journey evolves on two simultaneous fronts: the outside scenery and the inner voyage. The magic is all around and inside us too, as my awesome sister rightfully reminded herself recently.

So when I’m out and about, I often challenge myself to take the test. Yes, I do talk to myself.

"How much of a scene can you actually absorb? How many of the small details can you aggregate in order to get the bigger picture? How completely in the present can you locate yourself to just be here and now? And how much will you enjoy it?

Are you in the transit? What’s people’s mood like? What colors do they wear? How do they position themselves in the space they occupy? How are their eyes? How many are willing to sustain a look or even return a smile? Have you noticed someone looking happy? Have you let them know you appreciate it? Is someone wearing a stunning piece of jewelry? What is the sky telling you about the weather? Have you noticed the reflections on the streets in the rain? Is the sun drawing strange long shadows in the movie playing out the window? Can you avoid swearing at the cowboy manners of the driver and the sheep-like attitude of commuters and just be there?

Now, are you in an urban jungle? Have you noticed how the touch of man is everywhere? Have you analyzed how different styles have impregnated the very fabric of the city’s architecture? Can you appreciate the many places where craftsmen and artists have left their imprint and obviously worked on creating something out of the ordinary? Can you still manage to see the ordinary features with a new eye? The intricate mesh of the tram cables, the complex network of road signs and painted lines, the global pedestrian flows as seen from a bird’s eye, the graceful lines of skyscrapers reaching out to space, the life-long history of suffering that probably dragged that beggar to the street? Can you isolate individual sounds in the large background noise of the city’s heartbeat? A child’s laughter, the ringing of a bike’s bell, a distant ship horn, the acid cry of a seagull, a great song playing out of a car’s rolled down window, the obnoxious ring of a cell phone that makes you thrilled you are not the bearer, the clap of a nice pair of boots on asphalt, the hissing of a coffee shop’s steaming machine, a siren nearby, reminder that things could always be much worse…

Are you surrounded by nature? You are lucky. Have you reminded yourself of that fact? Have you taken a deep breath and analyzed the smells carried by the wind? Have you walked around, pushed on to the next somewhere, and then a little further? Have you noticed the warmth of an afternoon sun or the crispiness of mountain air? Have you noticed the changing light? Have you listened to the sound of your steps, crisp and squeaky in cold snow, muffled in fallen leaves, silent in thick grass or loud and indiscreet in the woods? Have you bent down to pick a flower and decided it looked better alive where it grew (unless it was to be offered, which gives its death a meaning)? Have you stopped and talked with the locals about their land, which they take for granted but know intimately?

And most importantly, have you taken a picture, lately?"

[ P.S. I often fail the test myself, but I get an A for Effort. ]