Looking at artwork in museums usually makes me uncomfortable. I end up feeling like some kind of voyeur—unable to touch anything but encouraged to stare all I want.

On recent trips to Seattle, Chicago, and New York, I watched people in galleries. Everyone I saw stared silently at the art, trying to understand what was in front of them. These types of interactions continued outside, in regular life. Everyone I encountered, looking out windows or admiring cheese or wishing for hair. All of them, engaged but distanced.

How do we respond to what intrigues us? Does anything have intrinsic value or do we assign the meaning we want into things around us? Maybe the experience itself matters more than the subject or background—whether it’s shopping, visiting art, or studying in a café. And if we’re not paying attention, who else is?