The tapestry of the human mindscape is embellished with millions upon millions of faces, seen, imagined & attributed to characters from stories. Who has not tried to create a mental image of their favourite character from novels or history? Otherwise we won’t have the whole franchise arising out of the Marvel comics!! And yet, like a millionaire sitting on a pile of cash, who may not place much value on a single rupee coin, the average human doesn’t attach much significance to any single face! It is but a grain of sand in a desert.
What, would you say, is the implication here?
When looked at from a dispassionate perspective, Humans, for millennia gone past, have sat in judgement over man, animal or even insects, depending upon how they don their mien.
Such is the importance man has bestowed onto facial appearance that the whole cosmetics industry is built on the basic, primordial human need to ’Put up a good face’! Millions upon millions of dollars devoted, millions employed in making a face look attractive!!
But the face can be as deceptive as it can be revealing.
Though with the benefit of hindsight we may now appear intelligent, yet, the world didn’t see much evil in the face of Adolf Hitler, nor of Nero. Today anyone who sports a toothbrush moustache will, in all likelihood, evoke distrust, suspicion or outright revulsion.
Every single crease, every mark, mole, scar or line on a face can be the starting point of a story, of a sad or a happy memory, of battles won and lost, trust honoured or betrayed.
Are we able to overcome the myopia occasioned by our effort to stay afloat in the struggle of life and really observe with any great care the faces we come across, the way we do our own countenance? Probably not!
As someone has aptly said,
“The countenance is more eloquent than the tongue”!
The camera is an equipment that helps us learn to see the world without the camera. It teaches us to unravel the nuance in the mundane. Every person that we meet becomes a subject, every face a book to be read, every expression a subterranean landscape begging to be explored.
The eyes, the lips, the expressions on the face act as a reflection of one’s inner world.
And yet no face remains the same even if it seems so when seen everyday.
So prescient was the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus who said
“No man steps in the same river twice, for the man has changed , and the river has changed!”
Well, the first time one sees a face, and even before a single word is exchanged, a whole personality is bestowed to, a story & even a whole life story, perhaps, is woven around that face. We may find a face sociable, warm & lekker or find another unequivocally repugnant!
When a person is about to enter a new town or city, they create their own personal imaginary version of that place. Each of us carries a different city inside ourselves, even if we all happen to live in the same city. Same is the case with a face, each face has a different personality, impression evoked, etched into a viewer’s mind. A version that is unique to every single one of us.
And yet, every time that same visage is seen, it has changed, perceptibly or imperceptibly. Obviously or subtly. Like Heraclitus’ river, it surely has changed.
The beauty of the human facies is boundless. For the lover, the face of the beloved is the very sublimation of their impassioned emotion. Whilst for someone else a face may be the absolute epitome of evil personified. Even so much as a flicker of the eyebrow, a blink of the eye or the turn of the angle of mouth may turn out to be significant.
A face may have a story to tell, while another may be a deception put up by the possessor to cover something! The face is a relay of the person’s mind. Is not the attempt at putting up a deceptive expression also a reflection of the psyche and intellect, as much as is the genuine display of grief or joy?
A smile evokes a smile, as might a teary face evoke pity, sympathy, sorrow. There are people who are not destiny’s favoured children but who, nonetheless, are full of hope, of joy at the smallest gifts of life and then we have someone born to riches beset with nothing but worry, troubles & melancholy.
It is the hoi-polloi, the proletariat, the sons of the soil of this amazing country, the farmhands, the workers, the nomads- the ones with the most open, honest & joyful countenances. They do have worries but the hardships of life don’t besmirch their visage!
Sharing their inner beauty with those around them, they teach us by example to be happy with our lot.
Inculcating the art of observing is likely to enrich and entertain our plebeian existence, one face at a time!
Sherlock Holmes admonished Dr Watson saying,
“ Watson, you see but you don’t observe!”