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Jack Smith

That Lingering Glance : 'Yes, I believe in love at first sight . . . '

October 06, 1985|Jack Smith

I don't happen to believe in telepathy--the transference of ideas from one person to another by some means other than the normal sensory channels: writing, the spoken word, body language, et cetera.

I have highly intelligent friends who do believe in telepathy, or extrasensory perception, but I suspect that they have merely imagined receiving messages from persons to whom they are very close and whose thoughts they might intuit.

To those who are excited by the prospect of extrasensory phenomena, I merely point out that if it were really possible for us to read one another's thoughts, society would be impossible. No marriage, no friendship, no business association, no social relationship of any kind could survive such insights.

Almost every conversation we have is conducted on two levels: what we are actually saying, and what we are thinking.

We say: "You have eyes like deep pools." And we're thinking: "Full of alligators."

We say: "You know I'm fond of your mother." And we're thinking: "That boa constrictor!"

We say: "Of course it's all right to smoke." And we're thinking: "This is the last time I have lunch with you , you slob!"

If everyone were suddenly given the ability to read everyone else's mind, by nightfall human society would be in chaos.

On the other hand, I do believe that we can transmit information to one another simply through the expression in our eyes and faces. This is known as the meaningful glance.

Reader John Degatina asks: "I wonder if anybody's ever come up with an explanation of the power in a directed glance--one that lingers longer than briefly. Like when you're driving at less-than-freeway speed and look at the angle view of the back of someone's head, and that person suddenly turns and stares into your eyes. The person couldn't possibly have seen you looking, yet with radar accuracy will in an instant fix on your eyes. . . ."

What Degatina has in mind is not a meaningful glance but a purposeful stare. I admit that this method sometimes seems to work. When I was a small boy, I used to stare at the back of the head of the person sitting in front of me in church; I would stare hard, unrelentingly, and invariably that person would turn round and scowl at me, as if to say: "Young man, I know you're staring at the back of my head. Stop it!"

Such experiences appear to be extrasensory perceptions, but of course they aren't. The man in church knows there is a small boy sitting behind him, and he knows the small boy is staring at the back of his head. All small boys do, because there is nothing else to do in church.

But I do believe that messages of the profoundest import can be sent and received in the moment that eyes meet. Yes, I believe in love at first sight.

A man looks into the eyes of a woman he has never seen before and can read instant apathy or interest, rejection or acquiescence. The introductory conversation that follows is mere formality.

Anyone who reads novels, goes to movies or listens to pop songs knows that falling in love is an instantaneous thing, accomplished entirely without benefit of language.

In the Jerome Kern-Ira Gershwin song "Long Ago and Far Away," all the singer's dreams are incarnated in a moment:

Just one look and then I knew

That all I longed for long ago was you.

Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart immortalized love at first sight in "My Heart Stood Still":

I took one look at you,

That's all I meant to do,

And then my heart stood still.

My wife says there's another line that goes ". . . not a single word was spoken. . . ."

I wonder if one look was all it took her, long ago.

Of course, a lot of information is exchanged in that one look. A lot of questions are asked and answered before a word is spoken.

Who can forget that enchanted evening in Rodgers' and Oscar Hammerstein II's "South Pacific," when the French planter looks "across a crowded room" into the eyes of the American nurse, and "somehow" he knows that she is his true love.

Who can explain it?

Who can tell you why?

Fools give you reasons,

Wise men never try.

This romantic exchange of signals between sexually vulnerable young (or older) people should not be mistaken, however, for extrasensory perception.

The day ESP becomes a commonplace, love at first sight will be the only kind of love, and it will last no longer than the flame of a lighted match. "Long Ago and Far Away," from "Cover Girl," 1944, International copyright secured, all rights reserved by the Welk Music Group. (ASCAP). "My Heart Stood Still," from "A Connecticut Yankee," 1927, All rights administered by Warner Bros., Inc. (ASCAP). "Some Enchanted Evening,""South Pacific," Copyright 1949 by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II. Copyright renewed, Williamson Music Co., owner of publication and allied rights throughout the Western Hemisphere and Japan. International copyright secured. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Used by permission.

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