Masking Ourselves


Thursday, May 07, 2020

I’m walking toward a market and masked as are most others around. This scenario makes me wonder why newstories aren’t full of robbery-related incidents. Until recently, an individual entering a store masked as mostly we are today would have appeared threatening. Where I live, in most places it’s legal to carry a firearm openly. In big box stores, I’ve seen on some individuals a holstered gun. It’s frightening, for even if a wearer’s overall attitude isn’t overtly threatening, the visual message is clear.

Think about data from scientific studies on human communications. The general consensus is that seven percent of our communications are verbal. The balance, or ninety-three percent of our communications are nonverbal–they’re visually transmitted. We may use full body language like dancing to communicate stories and feelings, or may express feelings by moving our arms and hands in various ways, or may elect to carry openly a highly destructive weapon in a typically non-threatening gathering. Everything we do expresses elements of our individual stories.

About masks, which we hope everyone in public wears, they cover facial features we’re used to seeing and evaluating. We accustomed to seeing maybe relaxed features with a kind mouth, or perhaps facial tension with jaw-clenching, tight lips. An individual’s Greek profile or Roman nose may create wonder about someone’s heritage, and are reminders that great art has made prominent features classic, ageless, interesting.

Our casual observations provide information about an individual’s demeanor, focus, and general intent. Someone who appears way different and out of the ordinary may become an object of concern.

These days, masks are more ordinary, making us try to understand what eyes convey while peering at one another over our masks. Sudden crinkles at eye corners may suggest a smile. With nonverbal communications increased, we acknowledge another in passing with a nod. We’re learning new ways of looking, unhelped by typical visuals.

So far maybe no masked robberies. Perhaps because most retail establishments have been closed, or because of orders for people to stay put. Even so, there’s an onslaught of gun-buying, and out on the streets many objectors, some with arms, are opposing orders to stay at home.

Dear Readers: These interesting times both invite questions and punch-up awareness. Diana

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