What You Learn From Looking

This weekend I’m in Chicago.

I’m here for the Vertical Conference just a few blocks away. A thousand young adults crammed into a former Masonic Temple now Christian Church, connecting with God, and– no doubt— eager to hear the wisdom of a middle-aged man about how to live as a Christian on the internet.

Yes, I’m debuting a new talk tomorrow. One that I’m really excited about. Let’s set that aside for later.

Yes, this hotel is three blocks from Moody, where I got my ministry training and met Kristen. Let’s set aside memory lane for later, too.

Instead let’s talk about my hotel room. Actually, what’s outside my room.

It’s is on the 25th floor.

As you enter the room the dominant feature is a massive window. It’s the full width of the room. And the view? Other buildings.

Of Course You Look

Upon arrival, the first thing I did was open the curtains so that the natural light would flood in. Next, I sat on the bed and turned on a bowl game to enjoy because it’s New Year’s Day. And then I promptly fell asleep.

After about an hour I woke up and decided to do some work at the desk situated next to the window.

Of course you look. 

You look down at the street and see the tiny cars moving around.

You try to peer between buildings to see more buildings down the block.

But you look directly outside at the 25th floor of the building across the street.

It’s human nature to look.

It’s taboo to look. Actually, it’s taboo to stare. There are people who have telescopes… I think that’s too far. I’m not talking about that. But to look for a few seconds when something catches your eye? Of course you look.

What You Learn From Looking

The first thing you learn is that not very many people are home. Maybe 10% of the windows are lit at a time. Where are all these people?

The second thing you learn is that other people’s lives are as mundane as your life is. Just like I fell asleep watching a bad bowl game, I woke up, put on my glasses, and across the street to see someone else laying on their couch asleep in front of the same boring bowl game. (Sorry, Iowa.)

The third thing you learn is that it’s just as easy for them to look into your room as it is for you to look into their apartment. Reciprocation is fair, I suppose. There are a couple of apartments in buildings that face the hotel that have telescopes. That’s taking it to the next level, I’m not 100% comfortable with that, but I can see how curiosity gets the best of you.

The fourth thing you learn is that it’s really awkward to momentarily look out the window and make eye contact with someone doing the exact same thing in another building 100 feet away. Nothing will make you close your drapes faster, it seems.

What does it mean to look? It means your human. What does it mean to be human? That we’re all that… just humans. 

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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