With the current advent of the donning of mouth masks, necessitated to varying degrees in compliance to demand and expectation, in response to the coronavirus, the very act of speaking has been compromised. It is not only the lips themselves that are covered, but the entire face surrounding the lips – lines, dimples, cheeks, chin – all that accompanies the lips and the tongue in the production of speech.
All, except the eyes, of course.
There are those who read lips, to be sure – both lips voicing words, and lips forming words not vocalised. Words, though, spoken or not, may conceal as much as they reveal. Words may be misinterpreted, too, however received. Silence is better understood, but also at times ambiguous.
But who reads eyes? Real eyes realise both real truths and real lies. Better than that, even, they realise intent – of body, of heart, of mind. Who reads eyes? Boxers, and all other practitioners of the arts of self-defence. Only through the eyes may one anticipate objective, sensibility, movement. The eyes are incapable of deception. Just as immediately upon printing – so fast do things change – that which is printed becomes obsolete, so all speech, regardless of uttering, is old; long before communicated, acknowledged, confirmed by the eyes.
For those, the many, yet unaccustomed to the reading of eyes, relying first upon their ears to hear what is said, and then upon the glimpse – often stollen from the phone – at the face and lips of the speaker for corroboration, it is time now to learn that skill.
During quarantine here, now relaxed somewhat, granting greater freedom of movement, but still under constraint of mask, at check points, when temperatures are taken, especially, and when hands are sprayed with alcohol, comply, of course, but do so with your eyes, looking into the eyes of the one performing those safeguards. Your eyes will reveal your consent, your understanding, your compassion.
The expression, eye to eye, more than any other ensures comprehension, sympathy, harmony. As human beings, this is universally understood. Eyes may be hidden, eyes may be cast downwards, eyes may be averted, but when the eyes of two human beings meet, even for an interval as small as that between seconds, truth, undeniable, ineluctable, is conveyed.
Sure, we all miss the lips and the faces of those with whom we interact, but not all is lost. Nothing is lost, really. Those eyes, even whose colour you seldom or never before found the instant in time to notice, nor the modicum of interest or curiosity to ascertain, those eyes, they say it all.