Do you mind if I sit down here? Thank you. You know, there’s something that has troubled me for a long time. When a stranger smiles at me in the street, I automatically return the gesture. Smile meets smile, two like kinds- there’s a balance. Nothing is lacking in the interaction, naught stays behind, no more is wanted, and I walk on with a mind at ease. But then I meet a stranger who, voluntarily or involuntarily, gives me a look of sadness. Now what do I do? There is no natural corresponding impulse on which I can rely- I cannot simply return the unhappy glance, like the smile, and be done with it. There is discord; a loud disequilibrium that lingers in the air around the moment in which I became aware of the other’s sadness. I did not question the stranger’s smile before, but now I am whirled into in a labyrinth of whys for the stranger’s sadness. Happiness requires nothing except the conditions that allow it to persist- a reciprocated smile included. Yet sadness demands something; first acknowledgment and then transformation. Both of these escape the realm of gestures; sorrow may be expressed in one body, but, unless one is on intimate grounds and can provide some kind of physical comfort, it finds no recognition in the world. The look of sadness has no common field; in fact, like the spontaneously returned smile, people instinctively turn away from the face of sorrow because they sense that nothing is to be done. This is why the sad stranger is such a lonely being; and I, more than their sadness, grasp their loneliness. The only way to address it would be through dialogue… But who is going to talk to a stranger? And how would I begin?