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On The-Feeling-That-Someone-Is-Watching-You

Do you know the feeling referred to in the title? It could be your neighbor through a window, or the phone that you forgot to hang up in your pocket, a video camera on a telephone pole, an alien in a spaceship recording through a wormhole, extra-dimensional God-like beings or whatever. I’m assuming that everyone has had this feeling. It is usually a fleeting feeling and we forget about it almost immediately – but that doesn’t overwrite the fact that it is possible1 that someone(s) always watching you, even when you aren’t considering this possibility. In the context of this paper I’m going to adopt the position that nobody actually knows whether this “possibility”2) is actual or not – we just don’t know.3 Assume4 that I’m just adopting this position for the sake of argument.5

Now I want to talk about those possible others and what they might be thinking. You don’t know what those possible others are saying (or would be saying, if they were actual). Granted? You have a lot of ideas of what they might be thinking. If the Other is merely your neighbor at the window, you may already have a subconscious rough psychological sketch of her character, and you project some possible response/reaction to what they are seeing. Maybe your neighbor sees you and wishes she could get to know you. Maybe she sees you and thinks that you are a disgusting pig. Maybe the creator of The Universe is watching in a Tele-Tunnel Time/Spacecraft. What would the creator of The Universe think of what you do from moment to moment throughout your life?6 The point is: You never know if someone is watching and you don’t know what they are thinking.7

When I say that nobody actually knows anything about these others and what they are/might be thinking, I am not denying that many people have a lot of very clear ideas of what these others are/might be thinking. These, ladies and gentleman, are what I am going to call “voices” in your head. I choose the term “voice” for a good reason: Please feel free to connect this usage to the “voices” often spoke of in psychosis. You don’t actually know what your neighbor is, might or would be thinking if she were watching you, yet considering this possibility can (and I would say has) an affect on your behavior. This voice isn’t telling you what to do (as psychosis can often do), but considering these others nonetheless has an affect on your thinking/behavior. If we don’t know what these others are/would be thinking and yet we have a lot of ideas about what they are/would be thinking (voices), then the most likely explanation of this seems to me to be that we project these voices onto the world (our “take” on the world). Hear me out: by saying we “project” these voices, I am not saying that these voices are wrong, irrelevant or insincere – these voices are very often pretty accurate.

I think it is a healthy practice to consider this possibility that someone/thing might be watching us at all times. I think it is a healthy practice to speculate about what these others are/would be saying. I think that (in general) we should listen to these “voices”, because they are at the very least our own voices and they clearly have something to say. Granted, peoples’ “voices” aren’t always in harmony with each others’ voices, but if we can just acknowledge that they are “voices” and that they are at least possibly true, relevant and sincere then we can at least begin to discuss these different “voices” and their merits/demerits in a sensible8 way.

This article is intended to be as ecumenical as possible, which miraculously leaves a majestically inspiring picture (for me at least). I am suggesting that at least everybody who has read this far through this essay (and by extension everybody else) reflect on the possibility that someone is watching you, conjure up the feelings associated with this possibility and try to fill all idle moments with reflection on this possibility. It may be comforting and it may not, and if it is not comforting, then you should interpret this discomfort as another voice, and you should listen to it.

  1. “Possible” being one endpoint on a spectrum reaching to plausible, likely and certainty. I am saying that it is not impossible. This seems intuitively certain. []
  2. It is at least a “possibility”. Being a “possibility” is not inconsistent with being a certainty. (Know your logical operators. []
  3. All we have is old books and people who claim to walk with the Lord. []
  4. And this doesn’t mean I don’t adopt this view. []
  5. In other words: What if all claims to contact with the actual Divine Other are just the result of evolved psychological mechanisms (of some rough kind)? []
  6. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t “believe” in some Divine Other creator of The Universe. It doesn’t matter if it is your “opinion” that this Other doesn’t exist. It is still a possibility and nobody can deny that. Period. []
  7. This follows from my “for the sake of argument” assumption above that nobody actually knows anything about the Divine Other. []
  8. i.e. rational []