This week, a scavenger hunt of sorts. A call for faces. In cinnamon buns. Coffee stains. Clouds. Wherever you may see them.
In our Falling show, I interviewed Simon -- a man who can't recognize faces. He's got a condition known as face blindness. "What do you see when you look at your beloved?" I asked him, "Do the eyes nose and ears swirl around? Are they not there at all?" After indulging nearly an hour of this, Simon finally cut me off and said, “You know it’s YOU… you guys who are the ‘mutants!’”
And he’s right. The computational feat of discerning the miniscule differences that set apart individual faces -- how an eyebrow hits the ridge of a nose, say -- is something most of us could never pull off using the lines and shadows on a leaf or a rock. But point us at a human face, and suddenly... we're honed robots. (The New York Times did a fabulous piece on how the brain is able to do this.)
But there's a weird side effect of being so freakishly attuned to facial features: occasionally we see very vivid faces on totally inanimate objects. A Jesus in a frying pan. A Mary in a grilled cheese. A strange little man in a cloud. Fully expressive faces lying in wait in the world around us. So this summer, armed with my new smart phone, I decided to try to capture some.
And I got a few!
Ditzy Happy Dumb Leaf:
Witnessing the End of the World Metal Thingee:
It brought me no small amount of joy to stumble across these faces. Each time I'd skip a little, as though I'd discovered a new friend. What became a little troubling though is just how much expression I realized I was reading into their "faces." I could tell you the life story of Sad Rock. Oh, the times he has weathered. The quiet resignation with which he has decided to take leave of society. But how his lip betrays an ambivalence. A yearning for someone to convince him he is misguided. WHAT? It is a ROCK. Chipped perhaps. Good for skipping.
This kind of certainty, of actual felt empathy, makes me question moments when I’m so sure of the emotions I’m picking up in others.* But that, gulp, is an entry for another day.
For now, I thought it would be fun to build an album of "found faces." This is where you come in. If you see a good one, send it our way (you can upload a photo through the widget at the top of this post, or if you have our mobile app, you can send us your photo right from your phone). Give the face a name if you want. Tell us its life story here in the comments.
*For more on reading microexpressions -- or how the face “leaks” the truth -- check out our Deception episode.