Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Half-Smiles are Dangerous"

There's a strange thing that's happened to me a few times, with two times standing out starkly in my memory.

The first time I remember this happening was in 1984, which I'm a little embarrassed to write, but that's how the brain works - when there's a problem, the brain stores it in the high-priority part of the brain (HPM - High Priority Memory), and there it stays until (and typically beyond) the point where the riddle is solved.  But here's what happened in 1984:

I was at a party at the place I was working (here in Japan) and I was talking to various people, as you do at a party.  One older woman said something to me, and we talked a little about banal/vapid/meaningless things ("Nice party, isn't it?" / "Where are you from?" / "How long have you been here?" / "What do you think of Japan?"), and at one point, she said something banal and smiled at me, so I - with the intention of simply being civil - smiled back.  Once I did,  a look of horror filled the woman's eyes and she physically backed away.  I thought "What was that?  What just happened there?  I get an empty friendly smile, I smile back meaninglessly to be civil, and suddenly I'm a monster?  What-what-what???"

Thinking back on it, it feels like it happened yesterday and the feeling I had some 30 years ago is still vivid.  Coincidentally enough... wait... no, it's not a coincidence, but rather the *reason* I'm writing this; it happened to me again yesterday:

I'm talking with an acquaintance (work related) and she says something inconsequential, but says it with a big smile on her face, so I - same as in 1984 - smile back inconsequentially with the intention of being civil.  You know, someone says "Hello" and you say "Hello" back, someone says "It's cold today, isn't it?" and you say "It sure is!", etc.  But again, not exactly a look of horror, but a sudden deep freeze in the eyes and a turning away.  And so I get a flashback to the 1984 event (that's what HPM is for after all - quick access for future reference regarding important issues).

And today... as I woke up to begin another day, I noticed that the mystery was still turning over in my mind, so at one point, I get (and this is the first time I have thought to do this) the idea of thinking back on the moment and trying to replicate my inconsequential smile into the mirror (you know, that wonderful device that reflects your image - quite accurately, but in reverse - back at you? - marvelous invention), so I walk over to a mirror and try it out.  Immediately I see a problem and it fits in with a whole host of concepts I've thought about over the years....  Where to start?  I suppose it doesn't matter, as they are all interconnected and probably don't have a specific order?  Okay, here goes:

The first thought is one of surprise.  The expression on the man in the mirror seems to be saying "Yeah-yeah - cut the c**p and let's get on with meaningful life already..."  Uh-oh... that wasn't the message I had intended to convey, but when you smile with your mouth only, and look at someone with a PGI  (Photographer Grade Intensity) visual beam, the result is blood-curdling.  Who knew?  I'd never tried it out on a mirror before!

Acting.  People - very strangely - respond best to overacting.  You would think they would recoil at this, and not subtle expressions, but the brain processing appears to be "Big vapid overdone smile... Oh, okay!  This biped must be friendly!  Someone dangerous or dishonest couldn't possibly make such a big smile!".  And of course the worst, vicious, most evil, sub-human scum among us are the ones who smile the biggest!  We are stupid, we bipeds are.  I wish I were an exception, but I'm afraid I'm not.  Just the other day I told myself, again (for the 57,349th time), "Man, how often do I have to remind you!?  Anyone who smiles too much is dishonest/dangerous almost by definition!  Remember that already!"

Huh... I started this thinking it would be a few short paragraphs, and then as I got warmed up to the topic, I was thinking it was going to be a book or something, but suddenly I get the feeling I've basically described what I set out to describe.  Now time to go practice smiling big into the mirror, and even using some other part of my face besides just the mouth.  Or maybe it's better to just not smile in the first place...?

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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