A long time ago in the land of UpSideDown, there lived a man named Festus who was gifted with hands of gold. His gift was such that whatever he laid hands on, regardless of how low or misshapen, immediately morphed into the best of its kind. As is expected for such a man, Festus was wealthy by all standards. He had herds and herds of cattle, seemingly limitless hectares of land, a blossoming business empire and a large happy family. He literarily and quite literally had it all.
But one day Festus woke up unhappy. He needed a new project, something else to take up and refine into the best shape ever imagined. And while he stood before the mirror contemplating this, his eyes lit upon his face. He stared. At the long crooked nose, the spotted cheeks and lined forehead, and the webbed corners bracketing the squinty eyes. Then he knew he had found it. He would take the face up and transform it so that it turned out to be the best face ever imagined.
Excited beyond measure, Festus walked around the mirror to retrieve the face but it wasn’t there! Festus moved the mirror this way, and that way. It was a large mirror, 9-foot high, 6 wide, made of oak and shiny arcs lined with rubies, and it stood on two large ceramic claws. Festus poked and prodded at it from behind, he squirmed this way and that way, nothing.
He peeked again at the shiny mirror surface and sure enough, the face was there. Then he looked again behind it, and the same thing happened…it went poof!
Alarmed, he called in his servants and explained his dilemma to them.
“If I may speak, sire…” a brave steward ventured.
“Quiet!” Festus yelled; his face was by now livid, forehead dotted with sweat and lips drawn in a thin unyielding line of strung-out anger. “Just find it” was all he said.
He ordered them to work in shifts, round the clock; and he had his bed moved so it sat just before the grand mirror. Every morning, the first sight he saw was the face. He would crawl up through the miles of bedding to it, a plea in his eyes, tears too. Please let me touch you. He would reach out to touch it – this obsession of his, but he would yet again make contact only with the hand, the cold, unfeeling, obtrusive hand that belonged to the face. Then he would grit his teeth, rise and walk around to the back of the mirror. And always, the face and hand would vanish.
Festus would fume and kick and scratch at his stewards and order them to bring him the face. They tried to take the mirror out but he turned grey all over and yelled like a train gone berserk. His servants obediently took to the mirror, peeling off the layers of shine, then paper, then strip by strip of oak. It took days but then it was done, but the face was still not found.
“Keep looking” Festus said.
“But how, sire? The…”
Festus would hear the counsel of no one, not the tender pleas of his children, nor the amorous wiles of his wife of two-score years. And soon fed up with his sour demeanor, they parked up and left to the village. His stewards too, one by one, packed up and left the mansion until it was just sully ol’ Festus in it. Festus and the face that couldn’t be found.
He sent word out to the other eight lands and to the seven seas and oceans; he put up his entire wealth for the man who could find the face he saw in the mirror. And they came, and tried, and failed.
Festus watched the face wane every morning; the brows lost their wing-like drape, the nose grew even more crooked, and the spots took over whatever rest of it dirty graying hairs had spared. And as he watched the rot, his soul wilted. And as his soul wilted, the face waned even more. And waned. And wilted. And waned.
Until one fateful night, Festus lay down. And waned.
The tag of ‘interpretation’ is for want of a more apt word to use because sincerely, there will be very little ‘interpretation’ happening here. Matter of fact, if I’ll be doing anything, it’d be more like EX-terpretation. So here goes:
Festus is everyday man, woman – you and I.
The Face is what some of us call ‘inner peace’ or ‘peace of mind’, some call it ‘satisfaction’, some broaden it to be ‘soul satisfaction’, some call it ‘true happiness’ while others call it ‘true living’. Because it is called by so many names and because I plain like to be noticed, I’ll continue calling it The Face for the purposes of this post.
However you choose to address it, The Face is that state we all – or some of us who have decided that death is unavoidable eventually – want to die in; that state in which we are free of all worries and in fact, happy with the lives we will be leaving behind. It’s that state we’ve heard that people were in who died with smiles on their lips. And many times, it’s a state we seek – some of us through the entirety of our mature lives and others, much later – and rarely find.
Fusing the analogy with this inexterpretation then, we often seek The Face and often, in the wrong places. Ironically, sadly, The Face is right with us, on us, in us, so we shouldn’t even have to ‘look’ in the first place. But oh, we do. We look.
We look for it in careers, in wealth, in crime, in power, in abusive relationships, in amorous ones, in love, in family. People tell us where to look, how to look and we listen or don’t. And either way, they soon tire because really, they can do nothing to help. As Abe so succinctly put it, “you wan hep pesin fain im own face?”
So sometimes we find it, most times we don’t but check this out, eventually we die. And after we’re dead, people spend time wondering about The Face on our behalf; they wonder if we found it – did he die happy? Did she live a fulfilled life? Is that a 🙂 ? Or a 😦 ?
And they never know. Then they die. And the wondering cycle whips on along.
So I thought of a question that would best direct people to find The Face while they lived. So that it wouldn’t matter to you at death what other people will wonder or think about you. So that it wouldn’t matter to you whether you died 🙂 or 😦 or ; when the time came, you would just quietly let go without fighting to hold on to the razor-sharp rims of mortality.
Many of us don’t like to hear this next part so reader discretion is advised for the next 23 words, 3 commas, two semi-colons and 2 full-stops.
Some of us will die violently, others peacefully; some slowly, others quickly; some painfully, others by an orgasm. But we will all die.
So death is sure – check; we can’t control it, nor can we control the manner in which it will visit us. What we can control though is the state we are in at the time it comes. Maybe we can die without feeling regret or intense dissatisfaction, the kind that breaks the heart of even a dying man.
If you’ve died before, then don’t bother reading this to the end, you already know what I mean. If you never plan to die…well, cumbayaya cumbaya. But if you – like me – are yet to but will surely die, kindly follow to the end.
I came upon this blog post from December of mega-sized ‘blackboard’ walls where people wrote with pencils their individual finishes of the open-ended clause, “Before I die, I want to…” And I thought, cool. So I conducted a mini-survey among my usual pool of youths 20 to 30 years of age. My pitch to them was this:
“Complete this – you may be as effusive as you desire, or concise. However you want to answer it:
BEFORE I DIE, I WANT TO…”
And the answers came rolling in. I will share a few of the answers I received back as well as my own answer in the next TTC post but now, take a moment to answer it for yourself. Because this question will help you find The Face, or peace of mind or soul satisfaction or happiness…whichever.
What is it that you deem your life’s purpose? That dream, that goal, that ambition which achieving right now will see you very happy, even if death came in the next minute. What is it that you want to have checked as DONE before death comes knocking?
What is the deal with This Thing Called ‘The Face’?
Think on it and do well to share with us.
P.S. While you’re at it, don’t look in ANY mirrors
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