It’s a fairly common behaviour isn’t it? Go to any shopping mall. Many of the people in the mall are loitering and strolling past the shops, gazing into the windows with no intention of purchasing anything. Simply window shopping.
If one of these strollers does venture into the shop, they may be approached by a store attendant asking if they can be of assistance. Commonly, the answer is, “Just looking, thanks.”
For many of us on Earth, is this approach similar to the approach taken to life itself?
How many of us simply window shopping?
How many of us, when asked, reply with, “Just looking.”?
How many of us treat life as if it is something that simply happens? Sure, we may experience it in ways that are joyful and fun-filled (although many on this planet do not.) Yet, experience is not the same as engagement. Experiences are the displays in the window. Engagement is venturing into the store (of life) and actively, consciously, deciding to make a purchase (become involved) of what is available.
Just recently I had the opportunity to sit and dialogue, over a cup of coffee, with a young man who was certainly not here to window shop. This young man had already experienced some of the trauma and damages that life has on offer. His father had died when he was still a teenager, he had struggled with alcohol.
This young man had struggled with the “dark night of the soul,” and in some ways, still is. However, he had also decided to actively engage with life. I listened to him tell of starting to understand the connectiveness of all things. I heard him speak of nature, not as something to be looked at, but as an intimate part of who he is. He told me about beginning to write poetry (I had recently heard him recite one of his poems at a local poetry evening.)1
This young man was not here simply to window shop.
Many young people seem willing to step into the store (life) and when asked, will answer with something other than “just looking.”
Yet, as this young man told me, he opined that there were few people who had thought about things as he had. Consequently, he had little opportunity to engage.
It is not an easy time for young people. The possibility of environmental and social collapse is real. Young people feel this, and know the implications (as well as the signs) of this more clearly than do older generations.
The conversation with him left me thinking that those of us who are older need to be willing to step into the store of life with young people and listen to how they see the world. Sadly, so many older people are still window shopping.
1. The eco-psychologist Bill Plotkin considers poetry to be one of the means by which we can engage with our soul identity. See especially The Journey of Soul Initiation, New World Library, Novato, California, 2021.