Faces - Dwelling Spaces

Wednesday, 14 March 2018


I was so engaged in Tanzania with the smiles and openness of people’s faces. It was so lovely to see the joy and laughter pouring out of people, and on the flip side to see when people were bored, fed-up or sad.  The contrast to the UK where people seem much more 'closed' was striking.  I wonder if this openness is partly due to the absence at the moment of cameras, and to a degree mirrors...  Following the #liedentity conference I was thinking about our obsession in the UK with our image.  Studies, for example, show that people take an average of 7 minutes to post a selfie, this involves selecting one image from a number of photos, applying filters and choosing good hashtags. I wonder how much this attention to how we look impacts on how we control our facial expressions?

People have often told me I smile a lot.  Even getting off the aeroplane this trip one of the air hostesses stopped me and said 'thank you for smiling - every time I saw you you were smiling'.  Is it really that unusual?!

Having seen the faces of people in Tanzania, I cannot really remember seeing people looking anxious. There were certainly plenty of things to potentially be worried about there with the level of poverty and limited infrastructure. The existence was much more day to day and felt to me much more outside personal control. There was a big contrast with the situations of relative affluence around me in the UK where we believe to an extent we can provide for ourselves and control our lives.  I wonder how much this illusion of control is anxiety inducing?  When Jesus talks in Matthew 6.24-35 about not being anxious food or clothes but instead seeking first the kingdom of God, the passage ends: therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
We in the UK and those in Tanzania all have plenty of troubles to face, some similar and some different, but we are all meant to be living lives in partnership with God and each other.  To do this well we have to be vulnerable, and to be vulnerable is to shake off the desire to control both our image and our independence.  A carefully controlled image will only ever separate us from others, as it becomes harder to maintain integrity between our inner life and what we allow others to see.

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