Is it worth talking about it at all, the human face? Oh, what a wonderful gift God has blessed us with, each one of us! We are now over seven billion people on Earth and each one of us has a unique face, that says something or everything about us. Human faces are not like other animals’ faces. Somewhat like that of an owl, the human face is specifically flat. One scholar jestingly stated that other animals must always be startled and amused by our flat faces. While most animals like foxes, giraffes, dogs, almost all birds, cows, squirrels and suchlike, have their faces pointed towards the environment they are entering ahead of them, human beings carry flat faces pointing nowhere; flat and round at best!! And yet this strange face is a powerhouse of so many functions that make us superior to most animals.

Oftentimes I wonder how much importance we put on the human face and how much time we give to paying attention to one another’s faces as we rush around doing our own businesses. I think about the many times we greet people without taking the trouble to look at their faces, missing the greatest opportunities of all; meeting people in a more than superficial way, and knowing what they really are about.

Whenever we talk of a face, we seem to signify a vital and desirable part of the human body or entity, as when we talk about the face of the earth, the face of the clock and so on.  In the bible, the Psalmist shows us how much the Israelites desired to see the face of God – Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always (Psalm 105:4).   In Genesis, Jacob names the meeting place with God Peniel, because he had seen God face to face and his life had been preserved (Genesis 32:30). The power and splendour of God’s face as indicated in the scriptures, is an indication of how important the face is. When we talk about the face of the Earth, we also point to the face as a fundamental and important concept – desiring its due attention.

Scientists tell us that the face is made up of 43 small muscles that enable us to make a whole gamut of expressions from smiling, smirking, yawning, frowning and suchlike. The face exhibits many different emotions, and it is thus, one of the most powerful tools for social interaction and indeed for our own human survival. The human face is a great gift to us and our window into the world. The face gives us clues to what one is, what one feels inside, what one intends to do, what one thinks about us, what one thinks about her/himself, and what one intends to be known by.

The face is also a source of our identity, it tells of our gender, sex, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical health, emotional state, personality trait, social status, moral standing, and so much else. If this be the case, one wonders how much time we spend to pay attention to one another’s faces as we greet them, discuss with them, inquire from them, work with them, commiserate with them, celebrate or travel with them? The Israelites sought to see the face of God and dreaded the possibility of him hiding his face from them, because this meant God’s withdrawal of his presence to them (Psalms 13:1; 30:7; 143:7; Isaiah 54:8; Jeremiah 33:5). In the same way, in paying attention to others faces, we give attention to their presence and importance to us and to the rest of humanity.

For a number of people, the face has been a positive impact in their lives’ enhancement and progress. Endowed with symmetrical and attractive features, many people endear themselves to the public and win votes and jobs by the mere fact that they are attractive and “easy on the eye”. Psychology tells us that good looks pay off in political campaigns and job interviews, as well as in popular undertakings like music, theatre, and similar fields. Of course, facial attractiveness is not all that counts, as the human person is so intricate with many other qualities that matter.

Faces can bless, and open doors for others as when we smile at them, gesture approval to them and instill confidence and courage in them. Such occasions seem to be in consonance as when we pray to God with the Psalmist, “Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved (Psalm 80:19). We can also take a moment and reflect here, when was the last time you let your face shine blessings upon someone? Can we remember the times we have used our faces to instill hope, courage, confidence, assurance, comfort, or trust in another individual that would have been touched by your kind smile, steady nod, headshake, eye-wink, and similar facial gestures that exude positivity?

Scientists engaged in robotics and working with humanoids, have a real challenge making a responsive human face – and they probably will never succeed in producing a next- to – real human face. This should be a pointer to how precious and intricate a gift you have in this gracious face of yours that you may at times take for granted. It is small wonder now that many beauty parlours are springing up at every alley and street corner, to brush-up and ameliorate people’s visages with make-up and other balms and musk. As long as this is not overdone to obscure the real sacredness of the human face and to hide oneself from the world, it does stress the importance and value we can assign to our human faces. Yet, again, I may ask you about how much time you take to appreciate in thanksgiving, the beauty of your face, despite the acne marks and all that you may not want to be there.

And here is the rub! An invitation for you and me really, that we may use all our 43 facial muscles to shine God’s love and mercy upon those we encounter each single day. That our faces may be real keys to God’s blessings in us and that we may also be present to others to discover all the goodness God has placed in them. In taking time to meet others and to understand them and meet them at a deeper level through their faces and through their presence granted to us through their smiles, loving nods, assurances, and openness, we continue to live the Easter calling to love one another. I am smiling all the time I writing this, and indeed wanting to wish that the Lord himself may lift up his countenance upon you, smile with you, and keep you in peace. Until we meet face to face!!

Sr Dr Najjuka Solome

Sacred Heart Sisters – Mbikko

Philosophy Centre, Jinja.