Monday, April 29, 2013

Face It: Things May Not Be As You Imagine Them to Be

We inherit our face. Not much we can do about that except to shape it in the most favorable way we are capable of.

The Rapp face includes a mouth whose corners turned down, and even more so when smiling. The only way a Rapp can look truly happy is to stand on his or her head. At my age that is no longer an option, of course. So, since I walk through the world with a genetically fixed frown on my face I must use care in criticizing others who do so as well.

Perhaps the only antidote to such a socially debilitating condition is to make sure that the sounds coming from our ill-formed mouths do not reinforce the appearance offered to the world. Or to say it more bluntly – we may have our parents to blame for how we look but we must take responsibility for what we say.

It seems to me that we have more genuine grouches in the world now than I remember at any other time in my life. Not all are afflicted with turned-down-mouth syndrome; some can, to paraphrase Shakespeare, smile and smile and still be a grouch. (I presume they genuinely enjoy their grouchiness.)  But those whose face and mouth agree in their dourness are most distressing to me.

I’ve mentioned, in previous blogs, several of our political leaders – Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, John McCain, Lindsey Graham – all of whom seem to be suffering from some kind of perpetual mental indigestion. A number of prominent para-church leaders could be added to the list. And of course there are the Fox News-like commercial critics who shape their face and soul to resemble a dour dollar sign. I suspect that, in the latter case, the Glenn Becks, Rush Limbaughs, and their contemporaries can and do smile, but only behind our backs as they lug their ill-gotten loot off to the bank, or to the gold exchange if we are to believe that they take their own dark prophecies seriously.

No one should doubt that we face serious problems in our culture; serious enough to wipe the smile off of the most optimistic and genetically gifted face on certain trying days. But how wonderful it is to encounter a smile when things are darkest. And more to the point, how encouraging to hear some optimism and positivism even when the face can’t manage a smile.

Sadly, those with the most gloomy faces and discouraging voices make claim to be the moral – and in some cases, spiritual – champions of our day. They are quick to declare that God, or at least right is on their side, implying at the same time, that their opponents are bereft of all moral credibility. They justify their stubborn refusal to engage in the dialogue necessary to make progress toward solving our problems by declaring themselves too righteous to compromise with their “satanic” enemies. They seem to be poised to leap on any crisis as an opportunity to prove the ineptness or maliciousness of those whom they oppose.

I have only a little advice for those “dark clouds” who insist on raining on every parade. Take it from one who has carried a frown on his face for three-quarters of a century. The shape of one’s face doesn’t necessarily reflect the shape of the world in which we live. Those who disagree with us are not always our enemies. Those whose values differ from ours may, on some occasions be more in the right than we are.

No one wore a face more dour, I imagine, than that old Puritan warrior, Oliver Cromwell. Yet it was he who reportedly said, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

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