Michael Jackson would have been so sad: we now smile behind masks, hiding key cues

What is a smile but one of humanity’s richest gifts? Simple, ‘unseen’ by the giver but enabling for the target who is beautified by its form. A smile is simple but magnetic. It was not for nothing that ‘Smile’ was the favorite song of late king of pop, Michael Jackson. Hear him, “Smile, though your heart is aching Smile, even though it’s breaking; When there are clouds in the sky; You’ll get by… If you smile…”

The song written by Charlie Chaplin, and also unforgettably rendered by Nat King Cole, brought something extra out of MJ, whenever he charged listeners to Smile. He knew like the sages of old, that when you smile, the world smiles back at you, freeing all manner of benevolent forces. Instructively, whereas the global scourge of coronavirus has created just the perfect conditions for us to heed MJ’s call to Smile, we have opted to mask our smiles, taking the sails out of them, as it were.

We now smile behind face masks, hiding key non-verbal cues, which is almost like winking in the dark. Experts have asked us to wear face masks to protect us from easy contact with the deadly coronavirus. But these experts forgot to tell us that in masking a good portion of our faces, we also mask many of the non-verbal signals that reveal how a person feels or what he or she is thinking about. Of course, because desperate times call for desperate actions, there has been mostly acquiescence, instead of protests about how our smiles have gone behind shades. In a bid to survive at all costs, we have put our smiles behind bars literally.

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