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In The Soul of the World, Roger Scruton writes:
My face is … the part of me to which others direct their attention, whenever they address me as ‘you.’ I lie behind my face, and yet I am present in it, speaking and looking through it at a world of others who are in turn both revealed and concealed like me. My face is a boundary, a threshold, a place where I appear as the monarch appears on the balcony of the palace….
When I confront Mary face-to-face, I am not confronting a physical part of her, as I am when, for example, I look at her shoulder or her knee. I am confronting her, the individual center of consciousness, the free being who reveals herself in the face as another like me. Hence there are deceiving faces, but not deceiving elbows or knees….
The face occurs in the world of objects as though lit from behind. Hence it becomes the target and expression of our interpersonal attitudes, and looks, glances, smiles become the currency of our affections.
A prediction: In a month or two or three, when the world again opens up, it’ll be on the condition that we don masks in public. We may leave our houses to pursue communal life, but only if we take the necessary precautions. We may worship again, but only if we hide ourselves behind cloth and gauze. Scarves and surgical masks will become our burqas and niqabs.
For months, and maybe years, hence, the specter of the pandemic will float over our civilization, every blank expanse of turquoise mask-flesh reminding us that something has gone terribly wrong. The currency of our affections, like the currency in our wallets, will have run out.
Only in the domestic sphere will we enjoy a fully human existence, free of the burdens imposed by the current crisis. Such snatches of normalcy will bring joy to a lucky few — and burning envy to all the rest.Published in