In flesh and on billboards, out of the corners of our eyes or right in front of us, we see them each and every day. We may give them some fleeting observance, or disregard them altogether. Or we may identify them, know them from somewhere and stop our own forward motion to communicate with them. We don’t usually give thought regarding whether or not they have equally identified us and desire as well to pause from their own affairs to dip into our life.
We see them not only with our physical eyes. Reading books, we construct them in our mind’s eye. While writing – as my class does each day – we create new ones, forming them from the spare parts of real ones that once resonated with us, fashioning them from the miscellaneous features strewn upon the work table of our imagination. When I read a book, I see them differently than when I go out in public and use my own rods and cones. Our reason observes them differently than our empiricism, but there is nevertheless a commonality that runs through them all, real or make-believe.
The ancient Hebrew account of creation, the story we find at the beginning of the Book of Genesis in the Bible, claims that God said (…to someone, the Scriptures are not clear on who God was hanging out with when the idea struck him), “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” The Scriptures remain ambiguous when it comes to what exactly “our image” is, whether it means a similarity in physical appearance, intellectual free will, anatomical organization or some mystical merging of the “spiritual” with the corporeal. To make it easier and avoid the headache, we assume it means that the people we see, as well as those we call to mind, are a reflection of the Creator. We like to think it is a loving inscription, a link between the Divine and the earthly.
If that’s the case, then I hope we will train our eyes (both the ones with retinas and the one that exists in our mind) to perceive that reverential image in the faces we see.