"Look into my eyes – you will see
What you mean to me.
Search the heart, search the soul
And when you find me there you’ll search no more."
These are the first lines of a song by Canadian singer, Bryan Adams. Eyes, indeed are mesmerizing. One doesn’t have to be knowledgeable in the art of writing love songs or poetry to know that these odes are simply incomplete without reference being made to the peepers of one’s object of desire.
Without doing too much remembering, you will recall instances where your eyes met with someone else’s, regardless of it being a stranger’s or those of a lifelong friend, and meaning was shared without a word being spoken.
By default, a journalist’s work requires looking into people’s eyes. There are the weathered and wise ones of the elderly, the soft compassionate ones of hospice staff, the proud ones of parents, the scrutinising ones of those in the justice sector – the examples are endless.
But the eyes that always end up haunting me long after the fraction of a second it takes for my camera to capture a moment in time, are those of young children whose eyes don’t smile.
I cannot recall how many times in recent years I have had to look through the lens to photograph young athletes or academics who achieved something, but there was no joy in those eyes. Even afterwards, the image confirms that the light has gone out. This reminds one of a scripture, Matthew 6:22-24: "The eye is the lamp of the body." You draw light into your body through your eyes, and light shines out to the world through your eyes. So if your eye is well and shows you what is true, then your whole body will be filled with light.
Working with young offenders many years ago, I often saw eyes with no light, eyes with the curtains drawn shut. Interestingly though, through a concerted effort faded eyes, I have learnt, can be reignited. I distinctly remember a convicted killer, whom I grew particularly close to on our journey towards the light, to whom I had nothing to give upon his release than before and after photographs of himself. “Remember Gideon, choose which eyes you want people to see before you stray,” were my parting words to him.
So often in my career, upon speaking to victims of contact crimes, despite being threatened and fearing for their lives, they all confess to having the same haunting memory of their assailants afterwards: "I cannot forget those eyes."
The eyes are the window to the soul. Such a cliché, but it rings true. Dr Melodie de Jager, early child development specialist and founder of BabyGym, explains this in the most simple term: "It is the only part of the brain we can see."
BY CORNELLE CARSTENS