The face

The face is where we meet the world, where all the intensity of our inner life meets outer life.

The faces of the children in the homeless shelter revealed life fully, in its most explicit ways. The little boy whose parents beg at a large temple in the city had been brought here last year, to have a roof over his head, a school to go to, food to eat, and some sense of safety. The little boy still looked sad and afraid. He said that one of his his roommates beats him, and he is afraid to complain. As if in the fact of the roommate beating him were revealed all the beatings he had taken when living on the streets for the first 8 years of his life, before coming here a year ago.

His best friend now was another roommate, who tried to protect him when the other boy beat him. But he was still afraid. The loneliness and solitude on his face, and the energies that emerged from it, were fully apparent, and not masked away, like in adults. The mask was beginning to form, but was not quite there, like a building still in the early stages of its construction. There was the desire to truly associate, to truly meet another human being, and also the fear of doing just that. There was the intensity that seeks a passion, a commitment. There was frustration at the life he has had, frustration that did not yet take the form of physical violence.

When he grows up, his face will become more opaque. It will draw into itself. It will develop a veneer of sociability that hides its own reality behind a well adjusted smile, a tired set of eyes, muscles of the cheeks held together alert and tense, ready to respond to the outer world, and not relaxing, dropping, just being who they are. The cult of adjustment will finally have inducted him.

Every time someone truly pays attention to that face, it will light up. It will invigorate, and the same hurts, the same intense desires will emerge that once had no mask to shield them. But only rarely would another human being truly give attention to that face, before falling into the rigmarole of everyday life and everyday relationships. He would have lovers, but after a while they will cease to truly look at his face, and will assume the mask to be the face.

As he grows older, the face will develop wrinkles and begin to droop with gravity. It will be hard to hold the mask anymore, and it will start to show more and more to all who care to see it. It will show most of all when he is alone, and nobody watches.

Eventually, he will breathe his last. And the face will be lifeless, no intensity and no mask, but just a reminder of what it was, the destiny it had, the calling it had, which was only partially realised in this life.

As he walked away from the children’s home, he wondered what his own face had come to convey. How the scars of life had occluded its radiance. Whether it was still the face he had as a child.

As a 10 year old, in the the old, boring history book from school that he was forced to read, he had discovered a gem. It was the story of Siddhartha. Of how one day, the young Siddhartha saw the suffering of others, and was reminded of his own life and its meaninglessness. Before the crack of dawn, Siddhartha went away from the life he had, the life he knew, in search of the unknown. The beauty, the passion, the tremendous radiance of that journey was marked on the 10-year old child’s soul forever. That day, something in the child arose and shone. That day, his face was fully alive.

Today, 23 years later, where was he? What had happened to that face? He asked if that light enkindled then was still alive, if that flame still burnt.

It was a story from 2500 years ago. But like the rising sun across the the river, it had an eternal quality to it. Siddhartha’s story was the story of us all, archetypally. It spoke of the soul’s journey from contraction to radiance, from entanglement to freedom. Most of all, it shone on the face of the radiant one, the Buddha himself.

This morning, before he began his work day, he sat and wondered where Siddhartha was in his own life.

~ by tdcatss on February 28, 2018.

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