Wednesday, March 30, 2011



The human person is a threshold where many infinities meet. There is the infinity of space that reaches out into the depths of the cosmos; the infinity of time reaching back over billions of years. There is the infinity of the microcosm: one little speck on the top of your thumb contains a whole inner cosmos, but it is so tiny that it is not visible to the human eye. The infinity in the microscopic is as dazzling as that of the cosmos. However, the infinity which haunts everyone and which no-one can finally quell, is the infinity of their own interiority. A world lies hidden behind each human face. In some faces the vulnerability of inner exposure to these depths becomes visible. When you look at some faces, you can see the turbulence of the infinite beginning to gather to the surface. This moment can open in a gaze from a stranger, or in a conversation with someone you know well. Suddenly, without their intending it or being conscious of it, their gaze becomes the vehicle of some primal inner presence. This gaze lasts for only a second. In that slightest interim something more than the person looks out. Another infinity, as yet unborn, is dimly present. You feel that you are being looked at from the strangeness of the eternal. The infinity gazing out at you is from an ancient time. We cannot seal off the eternal. Unexpectedly and disturbingly, it gazes in at us through the sudden apertures in our patterned lives. A friend, who loves lace, often says that it is the holes in the lace that render it beautiful. Our experience has this lace structure.

The human face carries mystery and is the exposure point of the mystery of the individual life. It is where the private, inner world of a person protrudes into the anonymous world. While the rest of the body is covered, the face is naked. The vulnerability of this nakedness issues a profound call for understanding and compassion. The human face is a meeting place of two unknowns: the infinity of the outer world and the unchartered, inner world to which each individual alone has access. This is the night world that lies behind the brightness of the visage. The smile on a face is a surprise or illumination. It is as if the inner night of this hidden world brightens suddenly, when the smile crosses the face. Heidegger said, very beautifully, that we are custodians of deep and ancient thresholds. In the human face you see that potential and the miracle of undying possibility.

The face is the pinnacle of the body. Your body is as ancient as the clay of the universe from which it is made; and your feet on the ground are a constant connection with the earth. Your feet bring your private clay in touch with the ancient, mother clay from which you first emerged. Consequently, your face at the top of your body signifies the ascent of your clay life into intimacy and selfhood. It is as if the clay of your body becomes intimate and personal through the ever new expressions of you face. Beneath the dome of the skull, the face is the place where your clay life takes on a real human presence.

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