I think it was the author Gregory David Roberts who once explained why we don’t feel bad for ants when we squish them or flies when we swat them. Besides the fact that they may give us the heebie jeebies or that you’d rather not have someone raid your pantry during the summertime, it’s because they don’t have faces! The author continues to explain that the emotions that faces convey connect us to one another and cause us to react in the ways we do. I really do think he was onto something. I mean, think about it. It’s probably why humans are more likely to be drawn toward animals with similar features. The only popular insect movies I can think of, and I might be dating myself here, were “A Bug’s Life” and “Antz.” But those were animated films and the characters had faces that children could identify with. Could you ever imagine if the works had been drawn realistically?
Faces are amazing things. If you don’t believe me, take your own experience, for example. Have you ever been to a city area? Or perhaps a busy concert, theater, or parade? The faces are endless! I, myself, am a commuter and it never ceases to amaze me how many faces there are in this world. And they just keep coming! Like a breeze, so many faces float into my life and, just as quickly, right out of it.
What’s the best thing about faces? It’s the fact that, in passing, you are unlikely to find one completely different than the rest. Each face is slightly reminiscent of another. They take on the shape of exes, past customers, and 3rd cousins we’ve been meaning to keep in touch with. We all look like someone else’s friend. But we never see our super close loved ones in strangers’ faces and I’ll show you why.
Let’s say you were to stop someone on the street, someone with a face not too unsimlar, not too special or remarkable. If you took a few days get to know him, his personality, really analyze his features and note his laughter lines, you’ll realize that his face is not like any you’ve ever seen in your life after all. You’ll start to notice that his face is entirely unique: he has the biggest eyes you’ve ever seen, the biggest smile you’ve ever seen, or the most expressive eyebrows. Your mind will somehow pursuade you that he’s not replacable in any sense and how silly you were to think he was! And still, if you were never to personally see him again, oh you’ll see him alright. You’ll see him in advertisements, as an extra in movies, and in dreams you don’t understand. You’ll start to forget the exact shade of his eyes or the shape of his nose. You’ll adapt his face in the crowd, just to remind yourself of that time you met a friendly fellow. Ah, how the memory plays with you!
And yet, I imagine, faces cannot be the only things that connect us, right? I think of the blind man. Are we special to him? Can he distinguish our voices just like we can distinguish the way he moves his lips? Or are we gray shapes? Are we nothing but darkness making indistinguishable noises?
The purpose of this essay is not to pursuade you that fleeting faces are the things we should hold onto, but rather, the stories attached to them. I promise, you will not remember his widow peak or her high cheekbones. You will remember, however, how they, for a swift time in your life, held a small place in your heart.