Osprey, Mono Lake © Robert Sommers 2023

Monday, October 26, 2015

Three Faces

Jo Mora sculpture, Los Angeles
I saw something thought provoking and profound out there recently, on some social media outlet, it went like this:

The Japanese say you have three faces. The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends, and your family. The third face, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are.

Well that is pretty cool I thought. The real face nobody ever sees. Nice. Sucker for that kind of thing.

I decided to do a Reaganesque trust but verify and see when and where the quote first appears in Japan. And the short answer is that like much of the manufactured pablum on Facebook, Reddit and tumblr, it doesn't.

Oh well, not surprising. This meme apparently goes at least as far back on the net as 2005 and has about as much to do with Japan as Vito Corleone does.

I did find this; 表の顔と裏の顔 which means having a front face and a back face. But that is only two faces, we are still missing one.

Read some quotes from some Japanese folks that say that it is certainly a new one on them. There is an old Japanese god with three faces, Vadjra, but he is not rumored to be undergoing any of this sort of existential angst.

Vadjra eventually gave way to the familiar three monkeys, see no, hear no and speak no evil or Mizaro, Kikazaru and Iwazaru.

Others researching this anonymously penned wisdom biscuit have mentioned a poem by T.S. Eliot that bears reading, the naming of cats. Not bad, I can grok the linkage. Here's the end of it:
...But above and beyond there's still one name left over,And that is the name that you never will guess;The name that no human research can discover — But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess. When you notice a cat in profound meditation,The reason, I tell you, is always the same:His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:His ineffable effableEffanineffableDeep and inscrutable singular Name.
Eliot evidently had a thing for names and faces. The following is from The lovesong of J. Alfred Prufock.
...And indeed there will be time For the yellow smoke that slides along the street, Rubbing its back upon the window panes;        There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; There will be time to murder and create, And time for all the works and days of hands That lift and drop a question on your plate;         Time for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and revisions, Before the taking of a toast and tea.

There was a Tarzan episode in 1966 called the Three faces of death but I have to mention that it was the Ron Ely Tarzan and therefore lacking a certain amount of credibility.
When the chief of a tribe, a friend of Tarzan's dies, his daughter prepares to succeed him, a member of the tribe, opposes her being the tribe's new chief. So he asks that the old test, The Three Faces of Death be imposed to prove her worthiness. But unfortunately a woman can't face a man in the test, so another member of the tribe must face him in her place. When no one accepts, Tarzan steps in. And if he fails not only will she not be chief, she'll be killed.
Yaqui mask collection, Casa Grande
Social psychology is divided into three increasingly isolated domains or faces: (1) psychological social psychology, (2) symbolic interactionism, and (3) psychological sociology (or social structure and personality). 

The Three Faces of Social Psychology - ResearchGate. Available from: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/261814010_The_Three_Faces_of_Social_Psychology [accessed Oct 26, 2015].

Sociologist Steven Lukes says that power has three faces.  Issuing, agenda setting and manipulation.


Three face sculptures - Michael Stutz, Fallbrook

Have you heard of Prosopagnosia? It is the inability for some people to recognize faces and an estimated 2.5% of the population could suffer from it. It literally means face blindness in the original greek. I have a friend with this condition. Many famous people, including Chuck Close and Tom Stoppard have it as well.

Anyway it brings us no closer to figuring out the identity of the sage who penned this doggerel in the first place and ascribed it to the Japanese. Maybe we will never know. Hope it didn't come from the Billy Jack movie, the Desiderata poster or the label on a bottle of Doctor Bronners. Have to be awfully careful these days.


Anonymous said...

I am rapidly coming to the opinion that memes are the worst of all the curses of the internet. The worst of the memes are the misattributed quotes usually attributed to Einstein or Buddha. The three faces one isn't as bad as most but it certainly has one meme attribute, that is, something that vaguely resonates with the culture, pop psychology in this instance.

The meme and tea party thinking share a lot of attributes, no factual basis, no actual "thinker" behind it and the shameless exploitation of emotion.

There is usually a god awful and often totally unrelated photograph glued on as if placed there by a mad person or a drunk.

I suspect is is all symptomatic of the not so gradual erosion of thinking and logic as we are reduced to a human equivalent of Pavlov's dog by our computers.

Blue Heron said...

Good comment, I largely agree. Humans are awfully darn easy to hook...

Anonymous said...

i read the blast. I just submitted a piece to Brandon to get juried, title: "Three Faces of One Former Wife".