Once We Had Faces

“Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces.”

C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces (1956)

William Wildblood has an interesting post about the sanitary masks, which are now mandatory for English shoppers. They are also mandatory here, with compliance close to universal. Wildblood is rankled by the English mandate and has interesting things to say about the spiritual cost of truckling to authority, effacing personal identity, and melting into the anonymous herd of false faces.  But I have learned to love my mask and believe we will never give them up or put them away.

The sanitary masks are certainly a symbol of compliance, and this naturally provokes resentment in any man of spirit who is jealous of his traditional liberties.  But a man who is jealous of his traditional liberties, and who speaks with contempt of these ‘face diapers,’ should ask himself what sense of the word jealousy applies to this case.  Is he like a “jealous husband” who is defending his claim to his wife’s affection? Or is he like a “jealous ex-boyfriend” who is raging over something he lost long ago?

Do we still have faces with which we would wish to meet one another? I am of course using the word face in the sense Lewis uses it in his great allegory, and in the sense St. Paul uses it in the famous passage in 1 Corinthians (13:12).  Men and women identify one another by their faces, so that to have a “face” is to have a fully formed identity.  It is to have become who you are, and thus to finally be who you are.  For Lewis and St. Paul, this face is not simply a fully formed visage of a full-grown man or woman, but rather a fully formed soul that has become, in time, what it is and always will be in eternity.

Lewis expresses this same idea of the fully formed soul when he speaks of “that word” that we finally dig out of ourselves after years of mere babbling, just like a child that can at last tell you its name. No man can really know God until he can tell God who he is.  No man will be shown the face of God until he can show God his own face. This is because God can have no clear identity or meaning for a man until that man has a clear identity and meaning for God.

When a man is ashamed of what he has become, he will of course cover his face and go into hiding, from himself, from his fellow men, and from God.  This is why men with souls that are unformed or deformed are so happy in the anonymous herd of a “faceless crowd.”

Have you considered how the sanitary masks have made a visit to the grocery store so much more like an hour on the internet?  We have all of us learned the pleasure of leaving our faces behind.

Does this mean that I have learned to love my mask because my soul is hideously unformed or deformed? I do not think so. I am not saying that my soul has grown into something altogether lovely in the sight of man or God (or even myself), but I do believe I have pretty well become who I am.  After years of “babbling,” I have dug out that “word” and said it, and now have only to wait and hear what God says in answer.  For better or worse, I have my own face and know my own name.

But I have learned to love my mask because I have learned to feel fear when I feel the eyes, and look into the faces, of too many other men. As I became what I am, they also became what they are. And now that we are all fully formed, we recoil in a welter of fear, loathing and shame.

This is why I believe that I am not the only one who has learned to love my mask, and why I believe we will never give them up or put them away.

13 thoughts on “Once We Had Faces

  1. Pingback: Once We Had Faces | Reaction Times

  2. 1. Physiognomic character implications perhaps? A world of cosmic mask wearing eternal spirit matter-punished demoted actor beings that choose to become the character they portray? Actors that will not repent of what they act? There was a 1960’s Twilight Zone mask wearing episode loosely something about that idea – the character becoming destiny idea – no joke intended here.

    2. Implications of becoming the face (“we deserve” … positioned further as question?). For exploration see “Annie Jacobsen’s presentation on “Operation Paperclip” discussing briefly at the 10:30 mark. Jedem Das Seine – “Is it True We Get What We Deserve?”

    3. Disney and Face-Swapping: Real Actors Days Numbered

    Fait accompli we march Eternal Return again as the Ides of Mars-March, marching as to inevitable war against self. Selves against selves. Face to face.

    • There are fully formed “faces” that wish to remain hidden, whether out of guile or fear. But I suspect there are also a great many unformed “faces.” There was a good deal of truth in the NPC meme. It is very hard to construct a stable identity in an incoherent and unstable culture, just as it is very hard to cultivate your mind by reading a miscellaneous series of books, blogs and cereal boxes.

  3. Until the great reckoning comes and passes, we certainly will not feel free to show ourselves (figuratively) in public — not among strangers and not among acquaintances. Such may occur in one’s own town, but we were robbed of (forsaken, neglected, gave up?) our own towns some time ago. Now, we’re all trekking through the desert and bush, occasionally stopping by a brook to refurnish our needs, though not to relax. One must be weary of the others; predators frequent watering holes.

    Bob Putnam, summoning Bob Putnam.

    • A man’s identity resides very largely in the minds of other people. Or rather in what that man believes resides in the minds of other people. If people treat him like an upstanding citizen, he will identify as an upstanding citizen. If they treat him like a bum . . . Some people have the mental toughness (or egotism) to sustain a self-image in the face of social negation, but most do not. And those who do not can not. If your community decides to shame you, you will feel shame even if you know you are innocent. There will be flashes of defiant anger, but shame will win if you cannot escape to a supportive community.

      Many of us nowadays have no community at all. We live in what sociologists used to call “the lonely crowd” or a “society of strangers.” When we look into their faces in the hope of discovering who we are, we see either blank indifference, vulpine malice, or the meretricious leer of a whore who wants to sell a little love. So our social life has come to resemble a crowded street of strangers, assassins and whores. And because we are social animals, we build our identity from those faces. I am nobody, except to the predators who aim to eat and extort me.

      • “A man’s identity resides very largely in the minds of other people.” Very thought provocative concept. Thank you for introducing it. Consider yet another recent cultural reference medium-is-the-message we are the fish swimming in electronic water television “show” depicting the game challenge of “Naked and Afraid” survival. The potentially “Covid” scamdemic infected plastic credit cards and drivers licenses are nowhere to be found. Unless snuck in intestinally. Covid implication offspring to come is Human cryptocurrency unless we muster the fortitude to destroy it. Coincidentally also the Biblical foundation Phase 1 project – they were naked and not ashamed. Of course, Who puts talking serpent eternal life risk game characters into a baby crib of the innocent incapable of comprehension? They probably were not innocent, for the Pale Blue Dot spherical prison camp is similar to Go Out in a Blaze of Sodomite Glory Foucault’s Panopticon of surveillance. Santa Claus knows if you have been bad or good because of surveillance. Can the earth-bound prisoner be reformed? This is the deepest existential question. Additive to your thought, I have not found the passage – not sure whether it was Nietzsche or not who said “Only the Gods can Be Alone”. So if there is balance, identity may reside in oneself as well, without which there is no self. You’d need to rely on self for sensory input in an environment lacking others (sensory deprivation).

      • “A self-idea . . . seems to have three principle elements: the imagination of our appearance to another person; the imagination of his judgment of that appearance; and some sort of self-feeling, such as pride or mortification.” Charles Horton Cooley, Human Nature and the Social Order (1902)

  4. Implication of power (the only definitive definition of God in one word) when applied to One God imagination. Jeremiah 32: 35 “They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded — nor did it enter my mind — that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.”

    “nor did it enter my mind”. It never occurred to Solipsism-Him (Nothing Exists Outside of One God Imagination) (Deut 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one”), that this External to Outside of Himself created clay figurine imagination would think a thought that did not enter His Imagination.

    Highly unlikely (unless good-evil transfected Demiurge personality). So. Above is my moral logic proof for Pre-existent Pluralism – Immortal Uncreated Souls plural. In this I do not rejoice. For I find myself in the same shameful neighborhood of responsibility as you. Smiley face. And if the Job-Whirlwind persuades me otherwise after this writing, I will repent in sackcloth and ashes to ashes dust to dust. But only after the mandatory wife instruction to curse God and die.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.