Friday, December 9, 2011

"I want to someone to look at my face..."

Actress Erin Moon did this monologue for Student Life. It has been viewed almost 241,000 times. It is a dramatic telling of the encounter of the Samaritan woman at the well in Jesus from John 4:1-44.

In his book What Is the Point of Being a Christian?, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe OP writes that the human body "is not an object but a subject. I do not only look at her; she looks at me. The pornographer seeks the safe immunity of the voyeur, the security of invisibility." Fr. Radcliffe goes on to cite the philosopher Roger Scruton's distinction between what can legitimately be termed "erotic" over and against what is surely pornographic, "in the former," Radcliffe notes, "the beautiful body is that person, who has a face and is a centre of subjectivity."

Scruton, in the piece quoted, uses Titian's Venus of Urbino as an example of the erotic because, as Radcliffe observes, "our eyes are drawn to her face." Scruton writes of the painting:
The face individualizes the body, possesses it in the name of freedom and condemns all covetous glances as a violation. The Titian nude neither provokes nor excites, but retains a detached serenity- the serenity of a person whose thoughts and desires are not ours but hers...Venus is not beings shown to us as a possible object of our own desire. She is being withheld from us, integrated into the personality that quietly looks from those eyes and which is busy with thoughts and desires of [her] own"
It is Jesus who looks at me, Who gazes upon me with such great love and tenderness, looking at my face, seeing me, knowing me, loving me. In this vein I am reminded of two disparate things, my favorite work of C.S. Lewis', 'Til We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, which is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, and Billy Idol's song Eyes Without A Face. The last line of the chorus: "Eyes without a face/Got no human grace/your eyes without a face."

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