Neither in or out: Thresholds and faces

it is said that faces are the thresholds to the soul

They say that faces are thresholds to the soul of another.

If that is so, I wonder what would change if we spent more time face to face, rather than Facebook to Facebook?
Do you think this would make that which painfully divides us, less so?
Would standing at your threshold mean that you’d consider allowing me to enter your life as an ally, rather than as a presence of threat or oppression?

Thinking about white privilege and the ways it works in my daily life is a thin path toward understanding how these hate filled days in the United States feel for others who do not enjoy this “privilege.” The word privilege implies something beneficial and munificent. It is a privilege bestowed on me at birth. I know men who loath male privilege, something that has effectively gotten them where they are today. Born fortunate? Does this mean some are not born fortunate? While I cringe in disgust and despair over the images from Charlottesville this past weekend, I have friends who see those images as direct threats to their own and their family’s safety. I don’t think our skin color should dictate how safe we feel. I don’t think our gender should dictate our options. But I have lived with the discrepancy between reality and these thoughts my whole life. They are getting more and more blatant.

If we looked face to face with a swastika swathed flag bearer in the march, could we find any common ground to build understanding upon? Or would the other mutually repel us each? Looking in to the eyes of that man with the flag might get me killed. But if I don’t take action, more people will be killed because I didn’t. By me, here, I speak as a white woman in a very blue state, in a very blue neighborhood, where hate fueled behavior does not infiltrate. But this does not make it less urgent for each of us to speak and look in to the eyes of people we know are animated by hate.

Looking in to your eyes, a way inpeach and a leaf in my hands

Long ago, in an acting class, I stood facing a partner, wordlessly gazing in to his eyes. Our acting teacher instructed us to just look, stand looking in to the face of the other, looking in to eyes. We were not to study how closely the other had washed, or brushed, or plucked, or wiped our faces. We were to just look, not at the peach fuzz or bristle, the lash or the brow.

Every single time I did this exercise over the years I studied with my teacher Deborah, at least one of the paired students wept. Being seen without words, without naming judgment or concern, not giving voice to love or loathing, just looking in to each other’s eyes brought a level of intimacy that was shocking at times.

When we shield our eyes from something, are we in fact taking away our intimate attention to a person or event, protecting or buffering ourselves from pain or shock or too much of something like light?

I wonder these things today.Thresholds lead somewhere wonderful

I am on the threshold of a very big thing. Two rather very big things, in fact.

For one, Backyard Art Camp starts on Sunday with 15 participants from as far as Toronto and as close as my daughter Catherine. And I launched the fund raise for my Armenia project two weeks ago. As of today, I am nearly one-third of the way there.

Thresholds are a place, too

Standing at thresholds is a curious place, neither in or out, but on the way. While I was in the north woods a few weeks ago, at my friend’s cabin, the heavy front door would swing shut noisily and make the wall of the cabin shudder with the shock of the slam. My friend asked me to hold the door so it would shut softly and preserve the chinks in the log cabin wall. I wanted to do this every single time I moved from in to out.

But something would distract me while I was in the threshold and I’d let it slam. Flushed with shame, I would reopen the door and shut it quietly, chastising myself for going numb the few seconds I was in motion. Really, it was a slim shaft of forgetfulness, in that doorway. After a few face blushed instances of slam, I would softly move from in to out, but it really took all my focus to be in that space of threshold.Thresholds leads the way inside

How often do I go unconscious as I move in and out of relationships and spaces every single day? How quickly my attention goes from inside to outside, forgetting this softer zone of in-between, where the door frame pictures me present, rather than in the future “there” already?

Yes, I am zipping around the house making peach jam and counting paintbrushes. And I am also moving with a little more awareness for those split seconds when I go from here to there. As if I could pause under the lintel and breathe, notice my own coming and going, letting that breath stop me so I could see you better.

While you move about your day, notice those thresholds, faces or doorways, the places where you go unconscious or when you notice you are in the presence of majestic humanity, humbled by the light that exists before you.

May you go gently as to not shake the chinks in your heart.







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Showing 4 comments
  • Julie Lambert

    thank you, Suzi.

  • Nancy McMillan

    Your experience in acting class highlights the deep-seated desire we each carry: to be seen and witnessed, without judgement. Yet where does non-judgement fit with morally abhorrent ideas?

    You pose such an important question, Suzi, and I wish I knew the answer: how to understand, look in the eyes of those whose actions are motivated by hate (fear), and whose actions rub raw the grain of my moral foundation? How to even think of them without feeling fear in my gut? How to find common ground, especially when I, like you, live in a blue-state, blue-neighborhood, and have enjoyed the privilege of being born white and middle-class.

    I’m listening.

  • Holly Wren Spaulding

    Thank you for this. Very resonant.

  • Nancy Seibel

    Suzi this is breathtakingly beautiful. I will be thinking about your “thresholds” questions for a long time.