Me, Lance, and Facial Movements

I was reading last week's The New Yorker, and was sucked into an article about how people interpret other people's emotional response through their faces. The article noted how a very few people could practically always tell whether someone was lying (using a controlled video tape of people lying and telling the truth), while most people were hit and miss. A pertinent part of the article quoted someone who said that because people can be trained to recognize these facial cues, most of us see and ignore them because we accept socially and intuitively that information not given freely, by voice, isn't ours to use.

This dovetails neatly with a sensation I had while going through chemotherapy in 1998. I felt that I had this immediate emotional access to people that I did not have prior to that. I'm not a cold fish, but the level to which I could relate to people and understand them was an order of magnitude above my normal workaday life. It felt like being empathically psychic.

Putting two and two together with this article, I realize that the minor changes in my neurochemistry that resulted from the chemo and my more fragile emotional state at the time enabled me to bypass the normal social constraint and actual watch people's faces and more intuitively interpret their reactions. I could meet strangers and be crying with them over events in minutes, which was a staggering thing, and something I sort of miss.

The Lance Armstrong connection comes in, as I started reading his well-co-written and engrossing autobiography written in 2000. He paints a stark picture of himself, a kind of undisciplined party boy loyal to his single mom who raised him. No self-pity, no fear, no stupidity. In the parts of the book in which he deals with the diagnosis and treatment for cancer, I can see his emergence into this larger emotional reality, and some of the things he says he said and his observations in the book are practically verbatim to my own thoughts and experiences.

It's a nice thing to connect with the rest of the world, no matter how grounded in physical reality. Ineffability doesn't always require mysticism.