staring into space in the presence of others


Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

I’M A WRITER and ideas come un­bidden throughout the day and night. If they’re good, they can keep me staring into space while I ra­ti­o­ci­nate my through them. I have learned to cease and de­sist what­ever I’d doing if these ideas come at an in­op­por­tune time, like when I am doing some­thing that could be po­ten­tially dan­gerous. But the rest of the time I just let the ideas have their way.

When I do let those ideas run wild, I often cease doing what­ever I’m doing and just sort of gaze into nowhere and stare into space. My eyes ap­pear fixed on some­thing, but I’m not con­sciously fo­cused on any­thing other than the idea.

A few years ago, I be­longed to a gym for “se­rious” body-builders,  not for those seeking so­cial con­tact as part of their workout.

Need­less to say, I knew that any ex­er­cise in­volving han­dling weights was po­ten­tially dan­gerous, so when an idea came I stopped the exercise.

I did these whether I was using free-weights,  a Nau­tilus ma­chine, or some­times even when just stretching.

I would keep run­ning if that’s when it oc­curred, run­ning being a great method of cogitation-inducer. So, need­less to say, I often phased out of my workout (I know—not good for the workout) and stared at nothing at all.


Staring at what?!!?

One day, the owner of the gym ap­proached me and wanted a chat. He told me that he had re­ceived “sev­eral” com­plaints from the few women who worked out at that gym con­cerning my staring at them.

I had no idea what he was talking about be­cause I don’t stare at women. I may flirt shame­lessly with them but I don’t stare at them. At no time did the owner con­sider that there might be an al­ter­na­tive ex­pla­na­tion for my “staring.”

Nor did he brook any ar­gu­ment or ex­pla­na­tion from me. It was a warning that came with an im­plied threat that should I con­tinue making the women un­com­fort­able I would have my mem­ber­ship canceled.


Can staring into space create a sex­u­ally hos­tile workout environment?


It ac­tu­ally to me a few days to figure it out, that I was staring into space, wrapped in thought. But I never ad­dressed the topic with the owner again. Nor did I allow my­self to stare there, as it was now a po­ten­tially dan­gerous activity.

And, like Carrie Brad­shaw, I had to ask: Can staring into space create a sex­u­ally hos­tile workout environment?

I am sharing this be­cause once again here in America we seem to go through an al­most ritual-like se­ries of sex-based witch-hunts. Lawdy Miss Clawdy, but some of them would be hi-bloody-larious if they didn’t make so much car­nage, often to in­no­cent bystanders.

Whether it’s the mo­lesta­tion of chil­dren in pre-schools or the rape of older chil­dren “dis­cov­ered” through re­cov­ered memory therapy, we sure have some doozies here that rarely occur any­where else on this planet. All well-intentioned, all catastrophes.

And we seem to be in the midst of an­other one that pre­sumes guilt and bowls over anyone foolish enough to sug­gest cau­tion  . . .


Doctored photo of a person staring into a way too close nebula at night.


This essay was orig­i­nally pub­lished in 2013 as “Navel Gazing in the Pres­ence Of Others,” which is weird be­cause I never think of my­self as navel-gazing, nor do I use the term in con­ver­sa­tion. I have pol­ished it up a bit and tacked a few para­graphs onto the end as it makes it more relevant.




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