Although it is present, to greater and lesser extent and under various forms, in all societies of fallen human beings, the notion of image and face is one that I deal with very often and particularly in Thailand. In Thai, someone’s “personality”, “character”, and “image” can be described by the same word (บุคลิกภาพ). This is only one symptom or sign, of course. But the notion of image or appearance is a significant one. Skin colour matters (to the disadvantage of the up-country poor). Clothes, gestures, money: many judgments are passed based on these.
I don’t claim to solve problems.
But for my own part, I wouldn’t know how to survive such an environment were it not for the Christian theme of transfiguration in Christ, whereby prayer, especially contemplation, overflows from the interior onto the exterior. “The spiritual” can be “seen”. The body is taken up by the Spirit abiding in us. It’s transfigured, lit from within by God, like Jesus’ humanity on Mount Tabor. This is no small comfort. For it says that, without doing anything big, while remaining little and seemingly helpless in a sea of image and style and face, Jesus is at work in us to make something of our weakness and our nothing: something that, for people who want to see an image, may be, at least in part, an icon of Christ in us.