No One is Watching

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July 9, 2014 by lucieromarin

If you’re readjusting your mental or physical universe, it’s odd to discover that nobody can tell this just by looking at you. I mean, if you used to go about in a wheelchair, and now you’re walking, your friends will probably notice. But if you used to have scruples, and now you’re trying not to have scruples, the person who sits opposite you on the bus cannot tell. Generally, people can’t tell at a glance if you’re wearing jeans for the first time in years – or a skirt, whichever is new for you! – or if you only got your amazing new hairstyle yesterday, and they certainly can’t tell if you’re grieving or healing, just as you can’t tell this about them.

I mean, obviously we know intellectually that our interior lives are mostly interior. But I have to say that it feels very odd to wear once-banned clothing or eat once-banned food in public, and simultaneously to feel both the shift of the universe around you and the invisibility of that shift to everyone else, for whom it is a matter of complete indifference. It is similarly strange to go to Mass in a parish other than your own, and to feel just how invisible or inaudible your thoughts or feelings are to the people kneeling beside you for the first time…kneeling there as though the New Mass was normal!!!! (Not to mention having no idea that there’s a giant arrow over your head, pointing to your completely inappropriate Mass-outfit and headcovering, which God can see, even if they can’t!).

The feeling is increased by the thought of our actions having spiritual significance and consequences. Women who wear the mantilla talk of a feeling of embarrassment which lasts until they realise that, in fact, no one has noticed their head-covering at all, much less been affected by it, whereupon they start to enjoy themselves. You don’t need a religious code to know how it feels to try a new outfit or a new style, but when your dress is a theological statement as well as a sartorial one, and when you are conditioned to thinking of clothing as a contributing factor to spiritual wellbeing and God’s good opinions – well, it’s any wonder you feel like the world must be watching!

It isn’t, though. Mostly, people don’t care, which may not be helpful when you want encouragement, but is very helpful if you’d like to be out of the spotlight while you experiment and make your own decisions. It is true that we might be noticed, but this is not to say that we’re always being watched. You get noticed because you’re pretty, or ugly, or kind, or weird. You feel watched, either because you’re thinking of God watching you, or because someone in your Evangelisation School told you that you were an apostle and everything you do can draw people to God, or because someone in that parish mission told you that We are at War and that everything you do affects the War.

Well, it’s true that God is watching, and I have to admit that this is not so easy a feeling to dismiss. I mean, you want to please Him, and you don’t want to displease Him by accidentally sinning by rebelliously doing something that He already told you through Father-such-and-such not to do. The important thing is not to freak out, because He’s not watching like that. As long as you are not committing objectively mortally sinful acts, you are allowed to take stock of your code from time to time. God is not leaning over you with a menacing expression, looking for a reason to strike you down. Mostly, He’s just looking for an opportunity to give you more grace – which includes the grace of a little time to work out what exactly you keep of your old code, and why. But the rest is a fiction. I don’t mean that the idea that you can lead people to God or that there is a war is a fiction; you can, and good and evil will wage their battles until the end of time. I mean the feeling of being immensely noticeable, all the time, to everyone, is a fiction. After all, can you remember every face you ever saw on public transport?

I thought not.

Or, of course, it’s possible that you feel watched because you’re a sanguine, and therefore a little bit of a diva!

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