Suicide is a difficult topic for the living.
And it hardly seems approachable on this lovely Spring Saturday.
This post has been stirring since I learned of the death of Dr. Frederic Brandt,
celebrity dermatologist, who recently committed suicide.
It was exactly a year ago to the day of his death that I posted about his work,
under the title About Face III.
It has been reported that Dr. Brandt was in despair,
and devastated regarding comedic characterizations of his appearance and personality.
It has been difficult to articulate to myself why I would wish to address his work again…
maybe there are too many metaphors, ironies–best to leave the dead in peace?
Perhaps I am trying to punctuate prior posts on the subject?
In pondering this,
with great feeling and sensitivity,
I would suggest that seeking to alter one’s visage is a perverse form of perfectionism–
leading one further and further away from him or herself…
In suicide, apart from the loss of a life, is the tragedy left to the living as to “why”.
We can never know, exactly.
I would offer this: Perfectionism Kills.
Marion Woodman spoke strongly and seriously about the fatal flaw of perfectionism.
In that, how we will always fail in the attempt, and are doomed in the attempt.
I offer my respect to a doctor, a healer, who went beyond the human and became a God to so many in the limelight.
Rest in peace Dr. Brandt.
Vox Anima, SDM
“For by his face straight, shall you know his heart.”
Shakespeare, Richard III
“The face is the soul of the body.”
As I continue the exploration of Face, Beauty, and Soul, I thought I’d zero in on how much is really happening, phenomenally, in our one and only Face.
I don’t spend a LOT of time in front of the mirror,
but when I am ill, I tend to be looking more (or maybe noticing more)
Signs, symptoms, health, wellness…
The eyes are my barometer, measuring degrees of such.
Let’s re~visit James Hillman on the Force of the Face.
“Not because of cosmetics and surgery is the face an aesthetic phenomenon, but because it is biologically so.
Besides the muscles needed functionally to chew, kiss, sniff, blow, squint, blink, and twitch away a fly, most of the forty-five facial muscles serve only emotional expression.”
Marilyn Monroe said: “I can make my face do anything I want.”
That is Mastery.
Hillman, continued: “The face reveals character, the mirror does not lie.
My face announces my presence, reports my nature, and above all, by facing outward, bears a message for others. Angels blow trumpets. They call for awakening. So does the face; it demands response.”
So, dear reader, I would posit this: What message does your/my face bear for others?
What awakening is being called for in that face of yours/mine?
What response is being asked for, demanded?
Hamlet to Gertrude: “You go not, till I set up a glass–
where you may see the inmost part of you.
Vox Anima, SDM
Art Credit: Tumblr & Pinterest
I was going to title this post: From the Neck Up.
Does the face say it all?
Would you trust your face to Dr. Brandt?
A New York Times article claims that many people do.
As many as 30 patients a day @ $7000 a pop.
You might recognize a few of his famous patients here.
…Returning to James Hillman on The Force of The Face…
and just in the nick of time.
(and no pun intended)
Hillman discusses the ravages and pain of cosmetic procedures,
and the loss of connection with one’s identity in the process.
He quotes Joyce Nash, Ph.D., who describes her face lift in detail:
“Most patients underestimate the amount of pain and physical trauma involved in cosmetic surgery.
They are also unprepared for the depression that may ensue.”
Trauma? Besides the acute postoperative distress, which passed in time,
there were long-term effects:
Nash had trouble wearing earrings,
because her earlobes were sutured to the surrounding skin.
Her glasses no longer held behind her ears.
Her jaw was permanently discolored,
and she had the sensation that a strap was cinched tight under her chin and over her skull.
“What I saw was disturbing.
It didn’t look like me,
and it didn’t feel like me.
Something was lost.
A sense of sadness welled up…
The frown lines, the sleepy look, the sagging cheeks and neck were gone.”
Nash’s “improved appearance” treats the face as a new and improved product,
according not only with the younger age she feels,
but with standardized notions of appearance.
(sound familiar ladies?)
Her postoperative image adapts to convention imagery;
is that also the image of her character?
Has she abandoned her uniqueness, sold her soul?
It is the effects in the face, the transmission to it of the passions of character,
that Marilyn Monroe hoped to have the courage to face.
Anna Magnani, the great postwar Italian actress of passions,
supposedly told the makeup man doing her face for a scene:
“Don’t take out a single line. I paid for each one.”
Vox Anima, SDM
Photo Credit NY Times – Mike Trebay
“The Man Behind the Face”
Other photos credited to Tumblr & Public Domain
“I want to grow old without facelifts.
They take the life out of a face, the character.
I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I’ve made.”
And the discussion continues…
and the exploration of the subject of aging.
Long before 60, I have been interested in the subject of Beauty.
Real beauty; that which is enduring, authentic, and more than skin deep.
This is a large subject–perhaps requiring more posts or…?
Recent study turned to “The Force of Character and the Lasting Life” by James Hillman.
Parenthetically, and historically, I will say Hillman’s work has not spoken easily to me. And I do find it interesting that it is from a masculine perspective I find some grains of truth in exploring the archetype of aging, as it applies to conscious femininity.
However, his “Interlude on the Force of Face” has my attention.
I have excerpted some of his research below.
Roland Barthes makes a useful distinction between the chronos of biology and the chronos of passion, such as we see in Rembrandt’s late self-portraits where the ravages depicted are due less to the passing of time than to the effects of passion.
It is these effects, that Monroe hoped to have the courage to face.
She spoke not of the biological face, but the face “I’ve made”.
…the human face as an archetypal phenomenon bears one message: utter vulnerability.
Therefore, the face will be disguised, covered, decorated, surgically altered–
or on the contrary, deprived of all possibilities of hiding, as in the abject condition of prisoner, captive and victim.
This is why our faces are so impossibly difficult to accept: We are staring into “vulnerability itself”.
Perhaps this is why, vanity and introversion aside,
I have been loathe, and remain loathe to be photographed!
I cannot bear the primordial image embracing my whole character, as it remains incomplete, and is still taking shape!
“From mirror after mirror
No vanity’s displayed
I’m looking for the face I had
Before the world was made.”
Hillman wrote that Jung did more than transcend Freud when he relativized the power of the analyst by opening analysis to the face. Face-to-face.
And, in Marion Woodman’s evolution of the Body Soul, she found phenomenal evidence for the power of the face, and the witnessing Other.
“A face, in the end, is the place where the coherent mind becomes an image.”
…I intend to find the facial courage I will need, to see what the mirror can only fleeting give, on this journey of individuation…
Vox Anima, SDM
Art Credit: Diane Epstein Photography
In a prior post, I promised to return to the subject of aging and vanity.
Fasten your seat belt–here we go!
For about 10 days, or so, I have been under the weather, with a ROTTEN cold.
Bored, I read everything in sight, including “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune”. Won’t spoil it for you, but talk about the Introvert’s Introvert!
I started Hillary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” but found the bloody 1500’s a little too much for my state of being. Ever notice how when you are sick, things (even benign) take on a malevolent tinge?
Boredom led to the Online News.
“50 and Fabulous!” the headline crowed. Over 999 sources and articles were listed. Oh my. My little shadow sister, whom I will name Envy, had a field day.
Exhausted, and mildly ashamed, I turned to lighter reading. Real Simple’s January edition on THE BALANCED LIFE.
Immediately, that little monkey, Envy, found an article on SOLVE YOUR SKIN PROBLEMS.
Q: Acne and wrinkles at the same time? A: Try a Retinoid. Daily.
Now wait, We thought: Isn’t there some Retinol in the medicine cabinet from our beloved’s brush with skin cancer? Hmmmm. Isn’t that the same stuff in these fancy shmancy potions? Hmmmmmm…
After 10 days of never ending mucous, hacking, and dehydration and the lovely wardrobe to bring comfort (old stained thermals in the shade of tootsie roll brown), it seemed like a good idea! Why not multi-task? If Flotus can be 50 and fab, open to Botox and Refreshers, We can at least be “60 and Scintillating!”
I began the Retinol.
Day 1. Ok! A little dryness, tightness. Isn’t that what it is supposed to do?
Day 2. Hm. Ok…
Day 3. The Sahara Desert appeared to be on my face and in the mirror.
Alarmed, I thought: “It’s that wicked cold! Has me so dehydrated!!”.
But wait, I had plenty of water, tea, made 4 different kinds of soup (from scratch).
Day 4. Did I get overexposed to the Sun in the dead of winter? Nope. CR@P.
Dammit Envy! Dammit Vanity!
Every day since has been a vain attempt at reviving my poor face.
You know that old cliche about being comfortable in your own skin?
I’ll add that to my Bamboo List (see Going Bamboo).
Vox Anima, SDM
Reaching the threshold of seven decades is daunting.
I had imagined this post to be full of self deprecating humor about crumbling teeth,
sinus pain, and VANITY ~~ there’s still time for that.
Caught in Goya’s Saturn grip, a dismembering is taking place.
A breaking down has to occur.
The alchemy of returning to my own prima materia–
the raw stuff of which I am made.
These are natural laws we are all subject to, and aging is one of them.
Beyond cliches about wisdom and other self soothing aphorisms, is the truth of mortality.
And the paradox of death and rebirth.
From this suspended place in time, I find myself viewing my fellow travelers and humanity from a soft lens.
How precious and vulnerable we are!
These our actors, as I foretold you were all thin spirits, and are melted into air, thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud capp’d towr’s , the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temple, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which inherit, shall dissolve,
And like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.
We are such stuff that dreams are made on;
And our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
Prospero, The Tempest, William Shakespeare, Act IV, Scene 1