Monday, 27 March 2017

Eyes without a face

Lent 2017: Day 27

Do you get that split second of surprise when you unexpectedly catch a reflection of your face - on the darkened screen of your smartphone as you hold it up to read, in the window of a shop or bus? Does it take you aback? Who is that person?

I've long felt that disconnect between what I see when I catch sight of myself and who I feel I am.

For I feel that I am a consciousness residing within a human body that moves about the face of this planet, in a state of awareness, learning, evolving, teaching, communicating - observing, feeling. The body, the face, is but a distraction, it ages; it will die. Within it is an ever-sentient awareness capable of such subtle realisation and fine judgment, honed with experience, taught by time and rising in understanding.

When I dream, I have no physical characteristics; I am neither big or small, young or old; I am ageless. That's the real me, as I am, not as I am seen externally. And as such, I am comfortable in my own company.

Was it director Ken Loach who described himself as having an eye instead of a face? The observer rather than the actor. Creativity comes from observation, spostrzegawcość - perceptibility; that ability to detect fine nuances.

Next comes the need for will, to put those observations to use, be it in a painting, a drama, a photograph, a novel, a poem, a film, a sculpture - a concrete call to action from within to create. Now this requires focused self-discipline. The drive to create comes a desire to share one's observations, unclouded by an ego that filters and distorts, that replaces the searing beam of truth with a self-serving narrative. Get out of the way of the telling; just tell it.

Thinking about one's appearance is a distraction. I feel most comfortable when blended in, not standing out, from the crowd. It is difficult to observe, mindfully, when one's demeanour is screaming "LOOK AT ME!" Invisibility would be ideal, being unnoticeable, indistinguishable - externally at least - from the rest of humanity.

Somewhere on Twitter I read that creative people age better than ones who are not driven to share their observations in their art. Not 'age better' in an external, visual, sense; rather in coming to terms with age. I can appreciate that sentiment. Self-obsessed folk ruminate on the onset of the ageing process, wasting time in a Quixotic struggle against inevitability.

All this is well and good, but it still doesn't inoculate me against those shocks of catching an unexpected reflection of myself!

We judge others by appearance. Others judge us by appearance. We judge ourselves by appearance. This is only natural; taking stock on the basis of appearance is an evolutionary defence mechanism. Friend or foe? Predator or prey? Authority figure that one automatically defers to - or a mug to be taken for a ride? We make subconscious decisions about strangers in a split second. Those first impressions are intentionally strong - in our ancestral past, they could have meant the difference between survival and death. The fact your genes have made it to the person reading this text now suggests that they had been rather good at that judgment.

But we should be wary of those first impressions. They are often misleading. They often prevent your conscious brain from taking a more informed view. My mother was one of many, many TV viewers who, when an expert was talking about a given subject, would comment on their clothing, hairstyle or other aspect of appearance rather than listening to what they had to say.

We must understand our biology and rise above it. We should not allow ourselves to become lookist - to judge solely by external impressions. We should not judge others that way - nor ourselves.

This time last year:
London blooms in yellow

This time two years ago:
London's Docklands: a case-study in urban regeneration

This time three years ago:
Scotland and its language

This time four years ago:
Death, our sister

This time five years ago:
First bike ride to work of the year

This time seven years ago:
Poland's trains ran faster before the war

This time eight years ago:
Winter in spring: surely this must be the last snow?

This time nine years ago:
Surely THIS must be the last snow?

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