St Peter's School
In his book Till we Have Faces, C.S. Lewis retells the story of Cupid and Psyche. The myth tells of how a king and queen once had three daughters. The youngest, Psyche, was the most beautiful and had many admirers which offended the goddess Venus who sent Cupid to take revenge against her. Cupid, ready to fire his arrow at Psyche to make her fall in love with something hideous, accidentally scratches himself with his arrow and he falls for Psyche.
C.S. Lewis retold the story through the eyes of Orual, Psyche’s older sister in order that he could reflect on her emotional reactions to the story rather than just the story itself. In his version, Psyche is abandoned on a mountain but then rescued by Cupid. He is disguised as the god of the mountain and takes Psyche as his bride but continues to stay in the shadows, to hide his face in the darkness. She longs to see him, to know who he truly is.
I wonder whether you, like me, are are finding it difficult not to be able to see those who I usually live and work alongside? Is it true for all of us that we crave face-to-face contact and somehow know deep-down that it’s important and good for us?
A 2015 study by psychologists found that seeing the faces of those that we know and like reduces stress and can even help to keep away the signs of depression. We connect with each other when we see faces in a way that a ‘phone call or a text message just can’t offer us. Making social connections releases all sorts of feel-good neurochemicals that make us happier and healthier, offers us the chance to learn from those we meet and lean on others when times are tough.
We create better lives as we interact and somehow it all usually begins with faces. Jesus said, “the eye is the lamp of the body.” What he seems to be getting at is that our facial expressions tell of our inner feelings. We communicate our intentions through our faces so it’s perhaps no wonder that we long to see the faces of those we know and love to offer us reassurance. That will inevitably feel all the more so in lockdown so, at the start of Mental Health Week, perhaps just remember to take every chance to be grateful for the faces of those you see. The wisdom of history, story and science all tell us the same thing ... sharing a simple smile really does make things better.