Here is the thing about eyes – they’re multidirectional. And where you direct your gaze, like everything else, is a subject of scrutiny.
Mostly, it is whether you cast your eyes up or down that cause most people to lay judgment upon you. Take for example these lyrics from Cage the Elephant’s song, Shake Me Down: “Plagued by constant misery, eyes cast down, fixed upon the ground, eyes cast down – I’ll keep my eyes upon the sun.”
The concept here, of course, is that casting one’s eyes down, to the ground, is a signal of defeat of some kind. One is emotionally beaten into looking at the ground, rather than up at the sky, where things are hopeful and optimistic. While on the other hand, looking upward suggests that one is taking life head-on, with a sense of vibrancy and self-assurance.
But to assume that focusing your eyes up or down will always mean you’re either aspiring to take on the world or slowly dying inside is an injudicious fallacy. (You know – it’s stupid.)
First of all, I don’t think we even need to discuss what a bad idea it is to “keep your eyes upon the sun.” The lens of your eye works just like a magnifying glass; it channels burning sunlight on your retina like a kid setting ants ablaze on those long summer days. That is blinding optimism. Literally.
Additionally, my eyes are fixed upon the ground all the time – do you have any idea how much loose change I find? I easily make fifty dollars a year just picking up coins in the parking lot, dropped by individuals too blinded by sunlight to realize they’ve lost it.
Yet we still find it easy to make judgments about people based on the direction of their eyes. For example, when conversing, the path of one’s vision communicates more than you might mean to. If someone is speaking to you and they are looking over you, that is insulting. I mean, who does that guy think he is, anyway? And if they are looking down, it is usually a sign of avoidance, maybe shame. Perhaps you should ask them where they’ve been in the last 24 hours (and possibly what that smell is).
The truth of the matter, really, is that none of us should be looking up or down. We should all be looking where we’re going – paying attention to what we’re doing.
As a person who looks down a lot, I can tell you that I walk into a lot of walls. (Winner, right?) And on more than one occasion, while sitting on a park bench, I have witnessed a person walking with their eyes gazing skyward…until they tripped over that stray dog and ended up with a face full of cobblestone.
So, I have a new suggestion for you Cage the Elephant. Try these lyrics on for size: “Because my eyes are sensory, I won’t cast down, fix upon the ground, or keep my eyes fixed on the sun. Shake me down – I won’t walk into the people left around.”