The job of the Onlooker is fraught with challenges. You always appear to be doing nothing, so others often butt into your silence or absent-minded staring to offer suggestions on how you might utilize your time, even though you’ve just listened to them talk about their lives for an hour without interrupting.

You are part psychologist, part mystic, part philosopher, part realist, and entertainer. You are always torn about whether to show your understanding with a nod, offer reassurance, insight, or your own thoughts. This tearing wears on your heart over time and often results in silence.

Some of the places we travel to are unsavory, tasting of madness, failure, and rejection. The Onlooker has two choices when appointed to these locations. Hide or seek. We observe with dutiful intention to see that the guards are just for show. Their routine is the same, their bowel movements like clockwork and we will realize they are not guards, but Onlookers like us. In this awareness we must protect ourselves because it is those who announce their positions that are genuinely hiding as those who remain silent seek.

I listened to a woman highly distraught with damage to the interior of her home and furnishings. She walked me through the losses in unexpected detail, maybe to justify her emotions or perhaps in the hope I would validate them. I listened with the knowledge of what my socially expected response should be but unable to elicit such response remained silent, wondering when it is that we empower our external surroundings with the ability to break us down internally.

The Onlooker can choose to become the subject. Many do in the mode of seeking. For a moment, I got angry with what transpired but rather than converting to tears as my subject had, I then felt exhaustion. Such an incident was clearly meant to highlight something for her and to illuminate that she needed to let something go to find peaceful rest.

The Onlooker can also choose to separate themselves from the subject. Many do in the mode of hiding. For a moment, I questioned why it was such a big deal while thinking of all the ways it could be corrected. I felt irritated by her investment of emotion because I couldn’t imagine feeling at all similar if presented with the same circumstance so her words felt like complaints, and I wanted her to shut up.

I was torn on whether to use words of comfort, spirit, or admonishment. What I said, in the end, may have been a mix of all but was still a socially conditioned response and lacking soul clarity because too often we are afraid that speaking directly from the heart will cause further injury to our primary vocation. Living.

These are some of the places where the Onlooker’s heart tears.

We can’t escape the minutia of daily life, and as much as we want to respond appropriately to others, we know they can’t avoid it either. It is the penultimate entertainer within the Onlooker that graces our choice of response, a unique slow dance with thoughts that keep the romance with life alive and prevents us from taking the final exit that behind the scenes taunts us with the promise of freedom.

The Onlooker’s most significant challenge in life is to become the Participant