A World Without Souls
Many years ago, I spent several months engaged almost exclusively with this question: What is a face? The synoptic version of the conclusion I arrived at through those months of rumination: A face is the surface of a soul.
For nearly two years, we have lived in a world that has outlawed faces, which is to say that in the most profound sense, we have been prohibited from seeing the most immediately accessible manifestation of each other’s souls. Our subjective experience through this time, as our rulers have willed it, has been that of men and women walking through cities devoid of faces — occupants of a world populated by bodies without visible souls.
“But what about eyes, which are the proverbial windows to the soul, and which are still visible above the masks?”
Perhaps eyes are indeed the windows to souls — as long as they remain eyes, in the proper sense. Windows without their defining context, which is to say without the walls in which they are set, are not windows at all, but merely panes of glass, slabs of transparent media devoid of their defining purpose. Eyes without faces, then, to pursue the proverbial truth, are not really eyes, but merely organs of sight, mechanical instruments of perception. Without the defining context of the face, eyes only look outward and receive sensory stimuli. They reveal nothing of what is behind them, to one observing them from the outside. For without the wall, i.e., the surface of the house, a window no longer provides a view into anything, for without the surrounding wall, there is no thing — no home, no “inside” — into which we might see. Likewise with eyes removed from the surrounding context of the face, the surface of the soul.
We have lived for almost two years in a world populated by (presumed) souls with no visible surface, and therefore no observable “inside.” What will the long-term effect of this most extreme social deprivation mean to those who will live in the aftermath of this mandatory separation of humans from their neighbors and fellow citizens? Will we see a heightened reveling in the pleasures of noticing our brethren, appreciating their newly revealed souls?
Or, as I believe is more likely, will we have so deprogrammed our natural enthusiasm for seeing the souls of others that we will henceforth live in relative spiritual isolation, clinging to the two or three people in our own homes, whose faces have remained visible to us, and effectively regarding all other men as nothing but sources of suspicion, distrust, and fear? In other words, will we have been reduced to the condition of prehistoric savages, living in a world of dread, mutual avoidance, and the instinctive preemptive violence of beings motivated entirely by self-preservation, without any ability to empathize, to understand, and to give a damn about strangers, all of whom will necessarily appear to us, in our mandate-conditioned blindness, as incomprehensible monsters?
I am frequently sickened by the thought of what the human race, so-called, has submitted itself to over these past twenty months, in the name of little but irrational fear and self-protective compliance. But when the nausea subsides, the fascinating experimental aspect of our situation admittedly has its special charms.