By Miles Beller
The lower lip droops with melancholy's gravity while the chin squares off at blunt angles, uneasily fixed to its frame. The nose, though sharp and pointed, seems tentative as well; a squatter fearing rejection and expulsion. Here is a Francis Bacon portrait in three dimensions; a purposefully inexact rendering of a face where features smear and blur, a face in and out of life.
Isabelle Dinoire is the 38-year-old mother of two girls and for the moment an object of intense curiosity, make that notoriety. As I write this several months into the year, Dinoire catches us from above newspapers' front page folds and hovers inside flat panel TVs piled high at Costco. In many accounts she stars in a sort of dark pop parable about the wages of despair counterpoised against redemption. With her fabricated face she serves as top-billed player in an archly triste French remake of Hollywood's "Bride of Frankenstein"; reigning pinup queen of modern medical marvels, title holder of "the world's first partial face transplant" as the New York Times has christened her.
To chart Dinoire's rise as media headliner starts with a fll. One must return to last May when Dinoire gobbled a potentially lethal number of sleeping pills and blanked out. Her black Labrador then found her and mauled the lower portion of her face. After a stay in a local hospital she was taken to a special operating facility in Amiens and given part of a face lifted from a dead 46 year-old who reportedly as a suicide.
"FACE OF A MIRACLE" announced one Southern California paper, bannering this headline above a central saturated color picture of the restored victim, her gaze seemingly focused on a region no mortal will ever glimpse. At such moments you could almost hear the snarling electricity emitted from a vintage sci-fi film; white wattage bolting up a four-story coil in a gothic laboratory as the possessed scientist ranted "It's alive! It's alive!" (Fade to black, before terrorized villagers clutching cruel torches swam castle gates, desperate to destroy "the monster and its unholy creator.") Something ghoulish this way comes, something unnatural, something never meant to be. In these media accounts Isabelle Dinoire and her reanimated face denote an immoral transaction; an affront to natural law and the blessed course of things. Yet who truly is the monster?
A face cleaved like knockwurst and sewn atop a different body. Life sporting the mask of death. What to make of this feature swapping business, this grafting of the grave onto the living? Unlike a heart transplant -- an organ interred and hidden in its chest vault forever - is not our face ourselves, our ever-changing calling card, the very expression of who we are? The shadow of your smile, when you are gone. Ah, but what if that smile resides on another after you are gone? Those lips, those eyes, merely entities to be retrofitted and relocated like a house jacked up on wheels and carted from one city to another and bolted down elsewhere?
Our character, is it said, resides in our face. Here is a living, breathing record of who we are, what we have gone through; our struggles, our triumphs, etched in flesh. Emerson held that "A man finds room in the few square inches of his face for the traits of all his ancestors; for the expression of all his history, and his wants." And George Orwell, a bloke who surely knew a thing or two about technology trampling humanity, concluded we get the face we deserve by age 50. But has Isabelle Dinoire, nearly 40, gotten the face she deserves? Surely, it is churlish to press the argument that for those so horribly disfigured, for those lacking the very rudiments of human architecture, such procedures are ghoulish experiments.
Still, questions persist. Perhaps by the time you read this, Isabelle Dinoire's body will have rejected her famous face. The surgeon stitches but anatomy twitches and there are no guarantees grafts will hold. Now as we tilt the glass forward and meet our reflection, we encounter the face of a stranger, an alien biography cast in a strange light decamped in our place.
And as the welter of Hollywood simulacrum and point-and-shoot reproduction crowds the view, the face of inner truth must more determinedly strive for open space and clear, true light; away from distortions and misrepresentations masquerading as fact.
In this issue of Psychological Perspectives our contributors provide inner truth with this clarifying light. Patricia Damery's "Window on Eternity or the Secret of the Golden Flower" fully faces the dream realms of correspondence between her father's passing and ancient teachings. And this meditation serves as the perfect companion piece to Shen Heyong, Gao Lan, and Theo A. Cope's investigation of the I Ching ("I Ching, Psychology of the Heart, and Jungian Analysis"), an exploration arriving at the core of this ancient source of oracular truth.
Bruce J. MacLenna,'s "Evolutionary Jungian Psychology" provides sure insight into the vital convergence between evolutionary psychological, neuroscience, and Jungian psychology, while Robin Robertson's "Scintillae of Light: Chaos and Emergence" illuminates how the unlikely pairing of alchemy and chaos theory, through the prism of Jungian psychology, enhances our understanding of consciousness's emergence.
The cultural matrix of inner truth is made manifest in Samuel Kimbles's "Cultural Complexes and the Transmission of Group Traumas in Everyday Life," the author delivering light to uncharted terrain: the archetypal foundations of group and cultural dynamics intersecting with individual psychic processes.
As well, the inner truth on the personal level is addressed by several diverse voices. Katherine Sanford, in "Muddled Milk of Motherhood" shows the "heroic challenge" she and many other women have and are facing as they struggle to balance biology's drive for motherhood against the psychological impetus to "express themselves as unique personalities." And in an interview with Robert Henderson, our co-chief editor Gilda Frantz revisits those times that have led to "Softening the Heart"-- Jungian psychology having helped her understand and deal with profound loss as well as the importance of heeding inner prompting. And in her article "Agelessness and Beauty," the author casts her gaze through the doorway to death, a consideration that underscores how such matters are as rich and vital as those met early in life. In "Anxiety and Creativity," Meredith Oenning-Hodgson takes us deep within the spiraling descent of anxiety, describing how the true attitude toward it actually leads to a "creative space open for discovery." And Constance E. Romero takes us into the heart of a hurricane with "The Cane Is Crying: Notes on Katrina," revealing the many shivers and slivers of truth she encountered with "Typhon's daughter."
Miles Beller, an editorial board member of Psychological Perspectives, is author of Dream of Venus (Or Living Pictures). He was recently recognized by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.