Thursday, April 27, 2006


FACE ALIVE


Another of the many things I love about Japan is the quality of the faces on the old folks, who wear their faces unashamed right out there in the open, a whole life for all to see and so take part in, vicariously read the future and the past-- especially out here in the countryside, where the old ways prevail yet. (In the city it's increasingly popular, even among the young, to buy a new face at the sign of a wrinkle.)

Folks live a long time here, in good part because the now older folks have always lived and eaten simply: not in the sense of incomplexity, as that would imply in the West, but in the sense of sufficiency, as (at least traditionally) applies here in Japan, where form is as important as flavor, where one eats with the eyes perhaps more than with the tongue. That continuous modicum shows in the elder faces and moods. How sad it must be to be angry at your own face and how it ages, rather than proud of how it has adjusted to a life in its entirety thus far, the life that it now stands for.

There are the smiling elder men farmers coming up the mountain, and the beautiful elder women, especially the lady that comes up the mountain to gather sacred tree branches for certain holidays of the year; they are not embarrassed by their own character, by the memories on their faces of all the smiles they have smiled, that make it easier to smile all the more, and that inspire a smile on the faces of those who meet them. That's what faces are, that's what they are for; they're not a blank slate to be bought at a clinic, they're a record of a life, a poem of experience.

If you want yours erased, perhaps it isn't worth reading.

5 comments:

Tabor said...

I agree with what you say and yet at the same time my face doesn't show how I feel. Maybe I didn't smile enough when I was younger.

stu said...

eloquently put. how about you robert? as wrinkly as mine (and I'm a few years younger than you!)?

Joy Des Jardins said...

I love this post Bob. Beautiful.

sodi said...

The language of faces ... written with your words.

joared said...

sodi (word verif.) should be Joared.