The perfect way to say it all

The perfect way to say it all
Fecha de publicación: 
27 September 2023
Imagen principal: 

Your gaze? Your gaze
Is the perfect way
To say it all, all,
Even though you say no word.

Renael González Batista

Numerous poets, musicians, painters, and artists in general, draw their inspiration from the human gaze.

The truth is that the gaze, particularly the action of staring to other people’s eyes, is one of the most important skill of interpersonal communication.

The Cuban people know this fact and put it into practice. It is not coincidence that several foreigners praise the gaze of Cubans, since we usually stare at people.

For those who are not from this island, it is particularly striking that women follow this custom as well, which is not common in certain cultures, where women must lower her gaze as a sign of modesty. In certain latitudes they are even forced to hide that gaze behind veils and other barriers.

The relationship between looking into each other's eyes during interpersonal communication and the idiosyncrasies of people is a complex and diverse issue. It depends on cultural, historical and social factors. In some cultures, eye contact is a sign of respect and honesty, while in others it can be considered disrespectful and even a threat, to the point of being interpreted as an invasion of personal space.

However, looking into the speaker's eyes entails many strengths in the communication process because it radiates trust, interest and empathy, while allowing non-verbal signals to be captured that complement the oral message.

It is unfortunate that today, the use of cell phones and other digital technologies is affecting the quality of interpersonal communication, not least because, in addition to distracting attention, it reduces and sometimes even eradicates eye contact.

That mysterious language

In the mysterious language of your eyes
There is one theme that stands out:

Longina, by Manuel Corona

The gaze is a tool that our body uses as a receiver and transmitter of emotions. In communication, it has a relevant power because, unconsciously, we are assessing every gesture, expression and detail of our interlocutor.

It conveys various messages without the need for words. You can express interest, desire, surprise, anger, sadness, joy, fear and many other emotions. In addition, it can reveal aspects of personality such as sincerity, intelligence, security, or shyness.

It happens that direct eye contact fosters active listening, increases trust and creates healthier social relationships. Looking into the eyes of people during a conversation is a way to reaffirm attention and also setting speaking turns or initiating communication, especially with a stranger.

In addition, active gaze - what is known as the social brain; that is, the brain regions specialized in detecting facial expressions and the direction of the interlocutor's gaze - is key to recognizing people who are familiar to us and to sensing how the other person perceives the world.

Not only does it speak about the other, but our gaze reveals aspects of our personality. Some claim that, for example, those with penetrating gaze are perceived as more dominant, confident and sociable, while those who avoid eye contact are perceived as more submissive, shy, and insecure.

Likewise, it has been observed that people who show a broader and more open look are more likely to be creative and curious, while those with a narrower and more closed view tend to project themselves as more analytical and rational.

Be careful with your eyes

The eyes are very sensitive organs that can reflect the state of a person's health, both physically and mentally. Some of the signs that may indicate health problems are:

- Reddened sclera: it is the red color that appears in the white part of the eye, due to the breakage of blood vessels. It can be caused by allergies, infections, fatigue, stress or high blood pressure. If the redness is persistent or accompanied by pain, blurred vision, or discharge, it may indicate a serious inflammation of the eye, called uveitis.

- Yellow eyes: it is the yellowish color observed in the sclera, caused by an excess of bilirubin in the blood. If the liver cannot eliminate it properly, it accumulates and stains body tissues. Yellow eyes can be a symptom of liver diseases, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis.

- Pupil size: the pupil is the circular opening in the center of the iris, which contracts or dilates depending on the amount of light received. Pupil size can vary due to emotional factors, such as interest, surprise or fear. However, if the pupils are very large or very small, or if they do not react to light, it could be a sign of neurological problems, such as head trauma, brain tumors, stroke, or poisoning.

- Ring around the cornea: it is a grayish or whitish circle that forms around the iris, due to the accumulation of cholesterol or triglycerides in the outer layers of the cornea. It is more common in people over 40 years of age and may be associated with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, or hypothyroidism.

- Protruding eyes: it is the bulging and prominent appearance of the eyes, which makes them appear larger and more exposed. It may be due to an alteration of the eye muscle, fatty tissue or fluid behind the eyeball. One of the most common causes is hyperthyroidism.

Life in colors

A healthy human eye has three types of cones (the photosensitive cells located in the retina) and each of them can register about 100 shades. For this reason, most researchers maintain that we can distinguish around one million colors.

But, "What might be possible with one person is only a fraction of the colors that another person sees," explains Kimberley Jameson, an associate professor at the University of California, in the United States.

Seeing colors is a private and therefore subjective perceptual experience, just like the perception of pain.

This is because it is determined by neuronal processing in all stages of the visual system and this depends on the cones, among other variables. Those who suffer from color blindness or dichromatism have only two cones and see approximately 10,000 colors.

Another very interesting fact about human vision is that there is no limit to how small or how far away an object must be before it can be seen.

As long as that object – whatever size or distance – transfers a photon to a retinal cell, we can see it. Of course, this will depend on the so-called visual acuity, which is the ability to discern details such as a point or a line without the two converging.

The limits for visual acuity – which could be interpreted as the number of pixels we can perceive – lie, among others, in the space between the cones and rods in the retina.

While the cones are in charge of colors, the rods – which are the other type of photoreceptor cells the eyes have – are responsible for the vision in low light conditions.

Some of the most recent scientific discoveries related to human eyes suggest that eyes can change color depending on mood, climate or age. It has also been shown that the eyes can reflect the level of stress or the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

In addition, it has been proven that the eyes can emit a faint light in conditions of absolute darkness, a phenomenon known as ocular bioluminescence.

Gaze made art

Those green eyes
With a serene look
They left in my soul
Eternal thirst for love

Adolfo Utrera and Nilo Menéndez

If humans had had eyes on the side of their heads, like birds, fish and other animals, perhaps our eyes would not have been such a relevant source of inspiration for artists... although, of course, they would have them too.

And if so, it would have been a big problem because the location of the eyes on the human face is what allows depth to be perceived, unlike animals that can have greater panoramic vision if they have their eyes at both sides of the head.

Neurobiologist Mark Changizi points out that having eyes at the front of the head made it easier for our ancestors to hunt because it gave them the ability to see through the undergrowth in the dense jungle.

And those human eyes that have seen so much since those mammoth hunts have been a source of inspiration for countless artists in all times and latitudes.

It has been, and is this way because of the ability of the eyes to transmit emotions and feelings, to such an extent that they are described as mirrors of the soul. In addition to that peculiarity, the organs of vision are beautiful for their colors and brightness.

Few eyes have been talked about, written about and researched as much as the eyes of La Gioconda, immortalized by Leonardo da Vinci along with its enigmatic smile. The eyes of La Maja, by Francisco de Goya, with their intense expression of love and defiance, or those of the actress Elizabeth Taylor with their hypnotic violet tones, have remained for eternity on canvas or celluloid – now transmuted into pixels.

Even as symbols, the eyes have become eternal. There is the famous Eye of Horus or Udyat, an Egyptian icon, usually homologated with the eye of Ra, in honor of the god of the Sun and the origin of life. And to ward off the evil eye, there are the well-known Ojitos de Santa Lucía, which together with a jet, have not stopped being used in Cuba, especially attached to babies' clothes.

About the eyes and the human gaze there remains to be written and created. It is not by chance that numerous World Days related to the theme have been instituted: The Vision Day, instituted by the UN every second Thursday of October; that of Glaucoma (March 12), Retinitis Pigmentaosa (September 24), Amblyopia (October 15), and also Color Blindness Awareness Day (September 6).

Translated by Sergio Paneque / CubaSí Translation Staff

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