Friday, 16 April 2010


When my grand-daughter Lila, aged 22 months, came to stay this week, I picked her up. She looked into my eyes and said "Picture! Me!" I think it amazing that she noticed her reflection in my eyes. Or is it amazing that so many adults do not realize they can see themselves in another's eyes?

It must have been well known to the speakers of the original Semitic language, since precisely the same expression is used for pupil in both Arabic (insan al-ayn, 'eye-person') and Hebrew (ishon, 'little person') - another case where Israelis and Palestinains should see eye to eye.

There is something beautiful about the fact that we see ourselves in each other's eyes. It is a sort of natural symbol for the capacity for empathy that evolution has given to our species. Misanthropists call humans 'selfish', 'cruel', 'the most terrible predator since Tyrannosaurus', but what other species makes efforts to save the whale or the elephant or the orang-utan?

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