Sunday, October 5, 2014

Good Morning Jessicca

Letter to my Daughter
Sunday, 5 October

The intricacies of a simple fried egg

Good Morning Jessicca…

Artists need constantly to remind themselves of the nooks and crannies of everyday life.  We easily overlook intriguing details and, instead, too frequently turn life’s makings into items consisting simply of name and a corresponding thumbnail description.  We quickly reach a certain point as we grow where familiar surroundings no longer warrant anything more than the most cursory investigation.  We’re preoccupied with responsibilities that come with maturity.  How odd for us to stare at our food long enough to appreciate its fascinating minutia.  Imagine examining each bite before placing it in your mouth and then pausing to consider the complexities of its flavor.  This is not a behavior recommended for public observation.  People may conclude you are either abusing a psychoactive drug or you have a debilitating neurosis.  An unrestrained fascination with your food will earn you a card table in a lonely room so that your peculiar amusement will not disturb the other dinner guests. 

Of course food is but of trifle interest when compared with the captivating power people have over us.  We are all lifelong students of the myriad nuances of human behavior.  What theater the human face provides.  I’m guessing the eyes are people’s foremost means for determining the thoughts being processed behind another’s gaze.  Of particular fascination for me is someone’s unfocused stare.  Their sight is turned inward, riding a train of thought, and nearly oblivious to what is going on about them.  While the eyelids remain open the eyes themselves are placed in ‘park’, careful not to deliver information that would distract the mind’s own self-absorption. 

Second only to the eyes has to be the mouth.  So what’s with the lips?  We don’t really need a colored boundary around the mouth for eating.  It’s only natural to conclude this coloration emphasizes the mouth’s disposition.  Am I smiling?  Is my mouth downturned?  One can be a considerable distance from another’s face and still tell the nature of the approaching greeting, especially when the lips are parted to reveal the white of teeth.  Teeth make one’s smile more expansive or a downturned mouth more threatening.  Women augment their mouth’s display by adding dramatic color.  Men can approximate the effect by growing a moustache.  Of course, a bushy moustache obscures the mouth.  What are we communicating here?

Then there is the kiss.  A gentle peck on the cheek feels endearing but lips pressed against lips can be overwhelming - passionate, erotic.  This is not automatic.  Familiarity tends to neutralize this impact.  The parting kiss or one of greeting within a relationship may mean anything from an unstated “I love you” to a polite gesture to a mere absentminded ritual.  The sudden absence of this kiss is like firing a warning flare overhead.  Beware.  Something is amiss. 

Such intensity induced by the mouth makes it a clear scene-stealer.  Still, the eyes compete with their special ‘come heather’ look.  One secret to this attraction is the widening of one’s pupils at the very sight of you.  The natural follow-up to this invitation would be a passionate, lingering kiss.

The stars of our ensemble clearly are the eyes and mouth but they can’t make it alone.  The lines on our forehead play a solid supporting role – one that only increases with age.  The smooth appearance of youth is slowly supplanted by lines recording our most characteristic expressions.  We no longer are a blank slate.  We exhibit a readymade map conveying our disposition of kindness or humor or something maybe dark, troubling.  A smile on a face frozen with evil intent displays not so much a friendly welcome but more the lust of one about to devour a meal.

Albert Finney prepares for 'King Lear' in The Dresser

Eyebrows are like the animated hands of the storyteller.  They vigorously amplify the intended meaning behind the furrows of one’s forehead.  The stage actor’s skillful use of makeup projects his facial narrative to those without the good fortune of having front row seats.  The clown’s makeup is an artistic mask depicting his character’s one basic outlook on life.  He relies on his body language to give it variation. 

It takes experience, practice and a conscious effort to disguise our true emotions from other probing eyes.  Maturity requires of us this talent in order to smooth out everyday agitations and avoid dangerous pitfalls.  Good neighbors don’t often exchange angry glares when confronted with mishaps and misunderstandings.  Committed couples generally resist providing facial cues that invite romance with an attractive coworker.  We learn there are proscribed times for drawing back the curtain to reveal our current feeling in its unadulterated full force.  Unless swept up by overwhelming emotion we require both trust and love to give into the unguarded, naked face… wishing your child ‘Happy Birthday’; declaring ‘I love you’; ‘good morning’ to an aging parent enduring their steady decline.  Our complex lives make moments of genuine expression without the hedge of circumspection truly rare.  Being adult is a bit claustrophobic.  I desire the expanse of an open range where human contact is uncommon enough to most always be a welcome event.  Acting is unnecessary.  There is only heartfelt good will.


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