It hits me with an intensity unlike anything. It only needs to be a moment, half a second of eye contact with a stranger and suddenly there’s this strange feeling. A connection that neither of us are willing to engage; so we look away. If not, the assumption is that you’ll start speaking to one another. To do therwise, to maintain that gaze without engadging, is rude and downright creepy. And it’s not just a matter of staring at someone. Yes, staring and not talking to someone is also weird and rude, but it’s different when the eyes meet. There’s a snippet of one to one communication that happens. The reaction to look away is much more sudden and instinctual.
A number of years ago I was in a long term relationships with a woman. We were in love. I don’t actually remember why we tried this (but I know I precipitated it, I heard of it somewhere); you stare into your partner’s eyes for several minutes, no talking. It feels silly at first, like a staring contest. At some point it loses it’s humourous quality and then it becomes something… different. You really see who they are, their ego gets stripped away. It’s like you communicate directly with the other person’s soul (or if I’m being less poetic, consciousness). You can’t hide yourself. It’s definitely intimidating, and can be unpleasant if you prefer to hold people away from your ‘true’ self. I also don’t imagine it would work with a stranger. Honeslty I haven’t tried it, but I get the feeling you’d never break past the humourous part, your deeper mind wouldn’t be able to understand each other so no communication would happen.
Now I’d like to take this further down the science hole. I’ll shed my poeticism and don my thinking cap. Sight is the primary sense for humans, specifically it’s what we use when we’re applying coscious effort to observing a thing. Even when you try to hear something the instinctual behaviour is to look at it. Eye contact also shows engadgment when listening to a person. Eye sight is the most outwardly visible sign of our inner mind.
We all have excessivly complex inner workings. Even if someones surface thoughts are relatively simple, the subconcious mind has many layers that are always working. Instinctually we respond in semi-concious ways to other people; we mask some things and show others. Eye movements and facial expressions are below the filters we choose to put up. This is how it breaks those barriers. This is also why it wouldn’t be effective if you don’t already know the person. You need a frame of of reference to interpret those expressions. Again though, this is all subconcious. It percolates into your higher conscious thoughts through feelings and emotions. Applying words, describing it; it’s done after the fact. Like the difference between your actual life and the story you construct of your past. Related but different. Translated. Imperfect. So I’ll stop with these flawed words.