on the surface

I was thinking recently of the expression “still waters run deep” and finally realized the meaning of it.  I’m sure you know, but for my sake, let me spell it out:

Water that appears to be still (calm) on the surface is probably moving (running) in swift, strong currents deep under the surface.

I used to think of that as something about how waters that are still tend to be deep.  But that doesn’t make sense, because a puddle can be still.  Then I figured out that “run” means they move under the surface, rather than “tend to be”.  Maybe that only seems interesting to me.

It’s funny to me, about me, that a simple expression that I’ve known all my life, it seems, requires deep thought at middle-age to grasp.  That’s actually happened a lot to me in recent years.

For example, do you really get the expression “burning the candle at both ends”?  I won’t explain it, since I’m sure you do get it, but I didn’t really understand it correctly until recent years.  Hmm.

Things are seldom what they seem.

Anyway, I discovered a new blog this week:  I Stare At People which has fascinated me, and apparently a lot of other people like it too.

It’s written/presented by an artist who does oil paintings of random people seen in coffee shops – very fast oil paintings, done remarkably well, considering the subjects are typically in motion and frequently unaware they are being watched so carefully.  Sometimes they realize, or are told, they’ve been the subject of a painting, but more often than not, they are unaware.

That’s fascinating to me because I’m a people watcher.  When I was in Junior High, some girls gave me the nickname “Cow Eyes” because I was always staring at people.  I’ve learned to be more discrete, but I can’t deny it happens.

An oil painting of an unknown subject, completed while they’re in motion, within a few minutes, can only capture so much about the person.  Even so, you can learn a lot by looking carefully enough at someone to capture the essence of their look in a few minutes, especially, if you’re a practiced starer, as I am.

I’m not an artist, but I think I frequently paint a mental portrait of people I see, and then draw some conclusions about them based on that view.  I’m a lot less harsh or certain about what I see, as I get older, but I’m probably just as frequently wrong.

This morning I discussed the movie, Avatar, with some friends.  We talked about how the movie is very pleasing to the eye – amazing graphics and presentation – and the story is definitely entertaining and compelling.  But, the characters are fairly transparent, the plot is fairly obvious and predictable, and the violent conflict in the climax is stereotypical battle fare (with twists of course).

We wondered about whether movies like that, and like the Twilight series, are a measure of the American and/or other cultures’ ability (or inability) to appreciate complex stories, like the real lives of all of us today – full of subtle emotions and innuendo.  I liked those movies, for the record, although I’ve only seen the first Twilight movie, so far, but you have to admit, the complexity of the plot, if there really is any, is mostly surface-level, stereotypical stuff.

Interestingly, though, one of the best ideas from the movie Avatar comes in the form of the main character saying, “I see you,” and meaning that she sees the heart of the other person.  It’s really beautiful, and a fantastic statement, which draws all of us into the emotion of it.

We all desire to really see and to be seen.  We all really want to be known and loved in spite of the knowledge.  We want to be measured and found adequate, genuine, and loveable.

But, the question seems legitimate to me:  Do we look closely enough at anyone or anything to really see?  Could we paint an accurate portrait, more than just superficial, of anyone we consider close to us?

I know from my experience with many relationships – especially at work and many at church – we seem to have traded the deep for the superficial, and seem to have forgotten the possibility or need of anything more.

Still waters run deep.  I see you.  It’s a hard row to hoe.  I’m burning the candle at both ends.

3 thoughts on “on the surface”

  1. I have something so profound brewing after I read this, but I can’t “get to it”. You know I say a lot of things with an edge of sarcasm but there is none in that statement! I am hoping I can let is settle long enough to grasp what is just below the surface (running very deep I am sure!).

    Thanks for sharing, that was worth considering again.


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