What Is Behind The Faces In Those Heads?


As we struggle to decode how and why so many of our fellow countrymen apparently see and think about our social and political world so differently, we rarely start from the perspective of how individuals see and think about their worlds.

Let’s give it a try. Please remember this requires oversimplification.

When you are sitting in a subway or on a bus with nothing to read—crushed as you are—what do you do to pass the time without simply trying to go to sleep?

If you are anything like me, you probably speculate about what those people’s lives are like and what are they thinking about and what do they care about—other than themselves.

Some people think I am wasting time. They may be right. But, the alternative of nothing is more likely to be the waste.  There may be something useful there worth wondering about. That is what this piece is about.

What is in all those faces and heads: behind that face, of course, most importantly is a brain. When we think of all those very different faces, somehow, most of us visualize a single picture of a brain (which most of us once saw) in a book, and now most of us assume that ALL brains look just like that one picture – mainly because they are not visible.


In fact, each brain looks individually as much different as their endlessly different faces. Yes –and with very few exceptions –all brains have their own parts like eyes, nose, mouth and ears. And, you do not have to be a brain surgeon to see and recognize the infinite variety of those arrangements in every given brain.

That should account for, or be a tip off, that those hidden brains see, hear, fear and like/dislike differently from what each of us see, hear, fear and like/dislike.

Those differences are part of what causes different people to get on and off at different stops etc.; to see you (the observer) as a figure of ridicule or admiration or be angry and jealous about you and other passengers for myriad reasons. Some of those other brains are constantly scanning for faces (brains) that may be sympathetic to them.

And, then you get to your stop and your brain switches to getting you safely off your bus or train and to where ever you were headed– as do all those other faces and brains moments before they focus their imagination back to coping with their everyday life.

This grossly oversimplified peak at how the faces and brains we encounter daily actually work may give some of us a few hints about how we all might better relate to and deal with the myriad faces and brains we continuously encounter in everyday life. 

If we look at all of the people in our everyday lives — including our bosses, fellow employees, customers, friends, romantic connections and strangers – and we factor out authority, competition, reliance, hope and unknown, what’s left is simply an amalgam of individual behaviors, as much affected by us as them. It takes two to tango. We may be the trigger point of what we like least in others.

Our engagement with the world at large is built on that continuous series of endless interactions with those faces and brains collectively and individually.

Why and how we/they trust us or not, fear us or not or like us is an amazingly subtle and difficult thing to understand—much less explain.

There are examples of fraternal twins who have completely different relations with the worlds around them. And, even identical siblings often have very different connections with the same strangers. Imagine greeting your college friend (not knowing he had an identical twin) and getting an unknowing stare even though you slept with him the night before. True story!

Sometimes it is as simple as a smile or even a grin.

As we sort through Democrat candidates for the 2020 election, we are already seeing collisions between policy, practices and personality [PPP] in prospective Presidents.

Should we have Medicare for all? Does that mean we have to give up our private insurance? That pits a lot of us against many of the people we live among.

Should we open our borders? Are immigrants, legal or otherwise, intruders or are they the lifeblood of a growing America?

Should we be open to work across the aisle or does that taint us with flirting with the enemy? That could limit what can get done.

What all this boils down to is that how we see and feel about each other, on an individual to individual basis, has more to do with the PPP of the world we live in than any abstract political thoughts or process!

The world we live in is populated by folks just like us BUT they do not know that, which accounts for why we are increasingly distrustful of almost everyone.

We must get over that problem at the individual level—and help others do the same– before we can begin to hope to manage life at the collective level.

“People” is what the world is all about. People are what make the world go around and fight.

And, people may be our undoing—IF we do not make a bigger effort to better understand and manage them.


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