Quote on the human face

Photo credit: chilombiano from
The human face is the subtle yet visual autobiography of each person. Regardless of how concealed or hidden the inner story of your life is, you can never successfully hide from the world while you have a face. If we knew how to read the faces of others, we would be able to decipher the mysteries of their life stories. The face always reveals the soul; it is where the divinity of the inner life finds an echo and image. When you behold someone’s face, you are gazing deeply into that person’s life …
Your face is the icon of your life. In the human face, a life looks out at the world and also looks in on itself. It is frightening to behold a face in which bitterness and resentment have lodged. When a person’s life has been bleak, much of its negativity can remain unhealed. Since the negativity is left untransfigured, the bleakness lodges in the face. The face, instead of being a warm presence, has hardened to become a mask. One of the oldest words for person is the Greek word prosopon; and prosopon originally meant the mask that actors wore in a Greek chorus. When bitterness, anger, or resentment are left untransfigured, the face becomes a mask. Yet one also encounters the opposite, namely, the beautiful presence of an old face deeply lined and inscribed by time and experience that has retained a lovely innocence. Even though life may have moved wearily and painfully through such a person, they have still managed not to let it corrode their soul. In such a face a lovely luminosity shines out into the world. It casts a tender light that radiates a sense of holiness and wholesomeness.
The face always reveals who you are, and what life has done to you. Yet it is difficult for you to see the shape of your own life; your life is too near you. Others can decipher much of your mystery from your face. Portrait artists admit that it is exceptionally difficult to render the human face. Traditionally, the eyes are said to be the windows of the soul. The mouth is also difficult to render in the individual portrait. In some strange way the line of the mouth seems to betray the contour of the life; a tight mouth often suggests meanness of spirit. There is a strange symmetry in the way the soul writes the story of its life in the contours of the face.

~ John O’Donohue

No comments:

Post a Comment