Morning Commute, Melancholy and the Human Face

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Rainy, overcast day. A feeling of gray melancholy in the air. No one talking on the trains, just gazing into their iPhones or watching the monitor or looking around trying not to make eye contact with anyone. It was as if for a moment, they’d gone into some dank but safe place in themselves, the ennui and senselessness of the morning commute being too much to bear. They just sat there, existing but only half-alive, listening to the listless drone of the train and the commands of the robotic Teuton living in the speaker system.

Zurückbleiben bitte!”

Even she sounded more depressed than usual.

On days like this, you can see the sadness in everything from a platform advertisement to the way the sparrows sit in the trees to an empty bottle of malt beer, but it’s always most poignant in the human face, that treacherous, sublime and most fascinating landscape in the cosmos.

Have you ever wondered how many times you’ve lived and died in the cast and airs and changing weather of someone else’s face? Take your father or mother or spouse’s face for example. Do they not all have a kind of tragic and tyrannical quality to them that love often only exacerbates? My guess is yes. I think we are all run ragged trying to survive the landscape of each other’s ever-changing features. Which is why when we’re in public it’s so important to keep our gaze averted.

Bent down to the earth” ~ Sallust

There’s just too much power in the human face.

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28 thoughts on “Morning Commute, Melancholy and the Human Face

  1. Beautiful observations on somber truths. Somehow you redeem the gloom that I find in my day, by composing your thoughts without flinching from “the sadness in everything.” …And on the subject of faces, my two cents are a couple quick quotes: the first is (of course) from Whitman’s “Song of Myself”:

    Writing and talk do not prove me,
    I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face…

    & this second is a quote-within-a-quote, from cinephile Roger Ebert’s commemoration of Ingmar Bergman:

    In 1975 I visited the Bergman set for “Face to Face.” He took a break and invited me to his “cell” in Film House: A small, narrow room, filled with an army cot, a desk, two chairs, and on the desk an apple and a bar of chocolate. He said he’d been watching an interview with Antonioni the night before: “I hardly heard what he said. I could not take my attention away from his face. For me, the human face is the most important subject of the cinema.”

    • I’m glad you can relate, B. I’m lucky to have you as a reader. Your comments are always spot-on, and those are some great quotes. I probably should’ve paid more attention to Herr Ebert when he was alive. But you know, as I’ve mentioned on your blog – https://tershyrad.blogspot.de/ (for anyone interested in perusing my favorite blog) – my film knowledge is close to nil as I’ve been outta the loop since the early 90s. Tough shit for me!

      • Ah thanks for your very kind words—I’m such a self-doubter, so your approval means a lot! And the luckiness flows both ways, reader to writer and writer to reader; as our man Blake says “the Prolific would cease to be the Prolific unless the Devourer as a sea received the excess of his delights.”

        And just one little note about Herr Ebert: it’s been a sheer coincidence that I’ve had occasion to mention him a couple times recently; I honestly don’t follow him too closely; so I wouldn’t say you’re missing out if he’s off your radar (I’m a little ashamed that I’m so aware of his writings, actually); he’s angered me as much as he’s pleased me with his opinions: he’s panned as many of my favorite films as he’s praised; so I have a love-hate feeling towards his criticism; but he won me over with his memoir’s chapter on death, where he shows that he’s conversant with and centered on the best work of Walt Whitman. So ultimately I consider old Ebert as a brother.

      • Yes, what’s reflected in the face. I have always found that face/eyes be my favorite part of the human form. It has always shown me everything important and grand to me. Therein lies all the Joy, Love, Despair and Tragedy of ones life and beyond. And with that, I have found that we are seemingly more accepting of all that Joy, and good feelings, and are made to feel that we must ignore all them despairing truths. But I can’t seem to not notice it all. When I have negative feelings for someone, I can’t seem to ever look in their faces. For me, it’s where their truth lies. I’m not sure if we crossed-wires in the meaning of the thing, but it’s what firstly came to mind when I read your ponderings.

        Or maybe my perspective is simply because I’m the proud owner of what they call a ‘resting bitch face’. Ha.:)<—-smiling on the inside a course. 😉

  2. I wonder if instead of “too much power” in the human face, there is too much “truth” in the human face. It’s harder to look at truth, easier to avoid. Power is compelling and draws our fascination. Just a thought. I liked your visualizations of a somber day.

  3. Pingback: On Truth, Power, Denial and Death | Sketches from Berlin

  4. I am blind and can not see the human face (just vague outlines of objects). I sometimes wonder what it would be like to see people’s facial expressions. I am writing this using Job Access with Speech or JAWS, software which turns text into speech and braille allowing me to use a standard Windows laptop or computer. Kevin

      • Thanks. I went blind (well more or less) at about 18-months-old, so have no recollection of being able to see (other than the vague outlines and dancing shadows with which I live on a daily basis). I think there is some truth in the old saying that “one can not miss what one has never had” or, in my case, “one can not miss what one is unable to remember”. I have always thought of my own face as rather an intimate thing so I’m surprised when (albeit occasionally) people ask whether I would like to touch their’s. I suspect the question stems from their wish to allow me to gain some conception of what they look like. None the less I always feel somewhat embarrrassed when people put the question to me. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and for those who are able to see I am sure that the human face can reveal far more about the inner workings of the human mind than can many words.

  5. You’re right about the human face revealing more about the inner workings of the human mind than many words, especially if those words are trying to obscure something. But I would suspect that because of your lack of sight, your hearing is highly developed, and so the tones and of the human voice reveal more to you that to most people. As for your writing, you express yourself very well so maybe it’s helped there too. They say Homer was blind, and James Joyce in the end was very close to it.

    • Thank you for the compliment on my writing. I certainly rely on my hearing for practical purposes such as crossing the road (although my guide dog is a great help there also). On a deeper level, I love the song of the birds and find it interesting how birds which are described to me by sighted friends as sometimes being nothing special to look at, can sing so beautifully.

  6. A fascinating blog here. I’ve worked for years with physical clowns who paint a fixed expression on their faces, but their bodies instead of screaming, tell of the incredible sadness you have captured. Thanks, MP, for enjoying my latest post about the recent Eclipse and the deep connect/disconnect showered down on us all alike. 🌠 And yes, shooting stars can cavort with us.

  7. I enjoyed reading this post. You have beautifully articulated a feeling that I’ve noticed myself but never gave it much thought. Monday mornings are so depressing that one wishes one were death, but then Friday comes and life gets easier. Melancholy of the working class capitalist world. Best wishes, Byron’s Muse.

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