On 'the Look'
Over the past several years, I’ve been to some pretty wild places.
I’ve sailed down the Ganges, meditated at the birthplace of Buddhism, even been to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. But in all these great places, there’s only one place I’ve seen “The Look.”
Say a group of pilgrims has just arrived in Mecca, and are making their way inside the Great Mosque. Because of the way the mosque is designed, there are lots of pillars, corners, big hallways, and obstructions between you and the Ka’bah. As a result, you don’t really see the Ka’bah and all the people circling it until you’re nearly all the way inside.
Then it hits you. Like a sledgehammer.
For most, the enormity of the great human drama unfolding before their eyes is simply overwhelming. Thousands of pilgrims swirling round the Ka’bah, non stop. All different colours, nationalities, denominations, even wearing clothing. It’s the widest range of human diversity on full display. And the circling never stops.
And that’s when you see “The Look.” It’s like watching a person hypnotized, full of emotion that’s impossible to contain.
Some will just stand there, staring, unable to look away. Others will raise their hands towards the sky. A few will fall down, prostrate, right then and there.
Almost all of them – young men, old women, you name it – will break down in tears. For the faithful, it’s an overwhelming experience – the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
That’s why it’s so hard to put “the look” into a western context because, in all my travels, I’ve yet to see it outside Mecca. Think of the look you see in a new mother face just after she’s delivered her first child. It’s a whirlwind of emotion – excitement, fatigue, gratefulness, worry, etc. Now magnify that by about a hundred, and you’d be in the same ballpark
It’s striking. And humbling. And for some pilgrims here, it will be the defining moment of their lives.