Remember the old days when we, as a human race, could go out in public and stand close to one another and take an unmasked breath of air? Those were good times. But those times have passed and things have changed and most of us are attempting to keep each other safe by wearing masks. As annoying as masks might be, there are some unexpected benefits. One of these involves the eyes. When the rest of our face is covered, our eyes become more important in communicating our feelings.
The Roman philosopher Cicero said, “Ut imago est animi voltus sic indices oculi,” or, “The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter.”
As healthcare workers, many of us began wearing masks at the pandemic’s onset. Six months have since passed and mask wearing is no longer the new normal, it’s just plain normal. In the healthcare field, it’s not up for discussion or debate, nor is it a choice or an option, it’s a necessity. It’s a safety measure. It’s a way to protect our patients and each other. We don’t (often) complain, because for us, wearing a mask is a no brainer, a given, a done deal.
There are several advantages that go along with wearing a mask. In addition to the whole germ issue, there are a handful of good things about keeping the lower half of your face covered: less makeup is fine, you can eat onions and/or garlic for lunch, it keeps you warm when your office is icy, you don’t have to smile if you don’t feel like it, etc. But the most wonderful revelation that has come to my attention since the mask wearing began is…all the lovely eyes.
Eyes are windows to the soul. This powerful phrase is attributed to Shakespeare, and was reportedly inspired by the sixth chapter of the gospel of Matthew. In today’s mask-wearing society, these words ring true. Although our masks prevent us from expressing ourselves in public with a smile or a frown, we still have the ability to express ourselves through those windows to our souls.
Eyes are powerful little organs. Not only do they provide vision, but they also can communicate for us. Each one of us has a wonderfully unique pair. They are light or dark, colorful or neutral, tired or energetic, evasive or engaged, confident or apprehensive, and so on. My favorite eyes are the ones that twinkle because that means there’s something exciting going on behind them. But whatever our current emotion, our eyes convey those feelings to others. We don’t need to smile or frown to let someone know we are happy or sad, they can see it in our eyes. And we can see it in theirs.
The pandemic has taken a number of things from us. Unfortunately and most importantly, it has taken so many of our loved ones. Less importantly, it has taken our social lives as we once knew them. And on the least important end of the scale of things this pandemic has taken, it has taken the smiles we can’t see behind the masks. But what it has not taken, and will never take, is our ability to smile through our eyes. We all have this God-given superpower, this ability to give and receive feelings through these tiny windows that let light in and out of our souls. We have our eyes.
In spite of the pandemic and everything else happening in our country and around the world in which we live, I’m thankful for many things. I’m thankful for family and friends and for work and home. I’m thankful that we have found many ways to come together while staying apart. And I’m thankful for those beautiful, expressive, windows to our souls.
When we don’t need a mask, smiles are great. But when we do need a mask, the vote is in, and the eyes have it.