Sunday, March 11, 2012

On the two faces

I wish to address this double play of two faces I most often experience personally or in the society around me. All of us express ourselves differently and uniquely to our fellow men to convey something; maybe to create a good impression, show a sign of thoughtfulness, acceptance, good or bad mood, but most of us do not realize that they all are short-lived, the expressions and the signs.We also do not realize that the other party couldn't care less about us once the moments have passed. (unless, of course, one has a gripping face with a soul-stirring expression). They are like the brief poses for a photograph; every one of us look good in our photographs. And it is surprising to see how one could judge someone from their facial expressions that last no longer than two to three seconds. I do not believe in first impressions! And the importance we place on it and our continual efforts for improving the looks to create a good first impression could not be explained in a better way than taking a look at the tremendously successful cosmetic products industry.

In reality, we all have two faces; the outer one which is visibly static, and the inner one which is actually dynamic.

The outer static is intermittent as in expressing a smile or a frown at any one we come across for a moment or two. (Well, in some cases it happens to be minutes, hours and even days, that's a different case.) The outer static, I think, is a result of two things: One, a combination of basic human instinct and social conditioning: basic instinct to gain acceptance in the larger tribe or society through favorable expressions, emotions and behavior, and the conditioning by civilization and society to always look good  to others, to show that someone is in good mood and spirits. It is merely being presentable to others, to show to others that someone is approachable at that moment for whatever reasons, a conversation, a favor, a company etc.; a brief sign of apparent good look for entry into his/her circle. Basically, it's a sign of social development that a human being should look good to his fellow men so that the others will be so too for whatever that may follow the initial signs of acceptance and entry. I do not intend to talk more about this part, for things like the 'studies of the effects of human civilization and social development in the need for personal physical beauty and presentability' are way over my head!

Two, and this is a dangerous thing, a worthless feeling that we feel good when we look good. In reality, we should be feeling good when we actually feel good inside, or at the most, look good in our own eyes, not when we look good to others! I know this defies the basic law of physical attraction, but there is a reality hidden in it. I find it difficult to understand what makes people believe they feel good when they look good to others,of course, apart from the momentary recognition/acceptance of the presence of a fellow being, as said earlier. To my understanding, the only ones who should be feeling so are the people in the cosmetic products industry because they need to make their customers look good! Everything here, again, is a simple sign of wanting to be accepted by others. Nothing to be said here beyond this.

What I really like to think about, and talk about, is the inner dynamic face. This should really be the face that should matter most to an individual. It shows one's state of being to oneself, not the state of looking to oneself or others. It is dynamic because it is made of the thoughts that flow from one's mind, thoughts that are either connected or distinct, continuous or discrete, structured or random. It is dynamic because it always looks to correct itself based on its experience with other forces inward and outward. To me, the dominance of the state of inner dynamic over the outer static is in a way an indicator of feeling of self-worth and self-esteem. One should realize how one feels when he/she feels good at (for) himself/herself and when (if) he/she thinks he/she looks good to others. If and when there is quite a leak in the former, it doesn't matter what others pour unto him/her because of his/her looks, because what he/she tries to fill then is a leaking cup of self-worth with the contents of others' opinions.

There is a clear danger of the increasing importance placed nowadays on the outer static than on the inner dynamic (now more than ever, because of the explosion of social networks) by people who anxiously spend most of their waking day to know what others think of him/her, to know who likes them (actually 'their photographs') etc.. How the worthless importance of the outer static slowly creeps on the inner dynamic is quite stupefying if one takes time to realize the same. I have done so, and still do, and everyday brings an understanding of the pure waste of time on the same and the need to avoid it. The consequence of this would be overlooked if one does not realize how much of the time and effort that could be spent on introspection aimed at self development is driven away into unproductive knowledge of one's time-killing activities to be liked by others! (Guilty as charged, I feel stupid for the time I have wasted on it so far. This could be read as a confession of the same, and an indication of Exodus from it!)

What is increasingly happening is the dislodging of the once-undisputed belief that one's worth was from what was within that person and not from without (i.e outside of him/her), the kind of belief that earlier civilizations had on the days of their influential philosophers, thinkers, writers or anyone on those lines; The likes of Socrates, Pluto or anybody from those ages to our present era. From what we know/see from eras of art, portrays, busts, and what not, is that Socrates, probably, was not handsome, but he could not have cared less , nor could his followers have. What seemed to matter, then, to himself and his fellow men was the overflowing wisdom from within their minds, hearts and souls, and what their followers revered them for.

What we have in our generation is a silly belief that "Face is the index of the mind", yet completely misreading it. Sometimes, we also read it as "Face is the index of others' minds"! We all want to look good, to be thought beautiful and handsome, to be praised by others, to be spoken of by others. And the lengths we go to to present ourselves as acceptable by others is stupefying. If face really was the index of one's mind, what do we need the cosmetics for? Or, if face really was the index of others' mind, then where is our own view of ourselves? Would we not rather we spent our worthwhile time and effort on building inner beauty (read 'self-worth'), on accumulating knowledge, on making the inner dynamic more beautiful?

What we think others see in us, inside or outside, is the very same thing as what others think we see in them. And almost always, both are wrong, and both have wasted precious time and effort in that false-belief! What we see of ourselves on our own minds is infinitely more important than what we see, or think we see, on others'! Think about it.

Rajaji.