Ease, joy, and ambivalent shells

A smile is what happens when you ease into safety. It can be cautious, confident, or casual. A smile can be a smile of weakness pleaing for empathy, a smile of power threatening to harm someone, or a smile of connection inviting someone into the safeness of feeling at home where and with who you are.

Where there is a smile, there is a boundary somewhere closeby, a shell enclosing and protecting what’s on the inside. A smile can be a door inviting someone in or shutting them out of a place. A door that is always open or always closed is useless and might as well not exist. A door represents, is evidence of, and is a manifestation of an ambivalence towards closedness and openness, a contradiction that can only be resolved over time by selecting the appropriate state in any given situation. A smile is not for everyone. Where there is a smile, there is also vulnerability somewhere closeby.

A smile can be a mechanism of deflection. Like a shopkeeper blocking the way into their shop during their smoke break, a smile can draw attention to the possibility of establishing a connection while at the same time denying it. “Move along. This door is not for you.”

A smile can be a genuine expression of joy. Sometimes my body informs me of the enjoyment I experience by orchestrating the muscles in my face to take on a shape that humans, collectively, have learned to understand as a symbol of the subjective good. “I am at ease.” The symbol acts as a proposal for others to consider and either go along with or reject. “Maybe this is good. Maybe we are safe. Maybe we should maintain this. And maybe more of this would be even better.”

The subjective good can be grown through the resonance that is enjoyment. It is not a coincidence that dancing, sex, and laughing have a rhythmic aspect in common: intensity is prolonged, is given a temporal existence, through resonance. The good is not only acknowledged but actively taken part in. Rather than remaining on the outside as something to merely observe and take note of, the good experience becomes amplified in and through the body whose excitement it initiated.

Resonance is difficult to keep secret. Not only is the door wide open, the entire protecting shell itself is vibrating visibly and audibly. Laughing, especially the loud laugh of a leader, is a wasteful display and celebration of safety. Echos of pleasure and confidence warn even far observers of the power that would justify such carelessness. At the same time, they attract those looking for a home, for a place to belong, for a hearth to gather around.

While many choose to pass the opportunity and leave the radiating shell alone, occasionally a face dares to take a peek through the open door. Its cautious smile indicates openness but also vulnerability. “What is good for you is also good for me. Please don’t hurt me. I am only looking for warmth.”

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