November 2nd, 2013| Topic: RaMbLeS | 2


Tara Fall suffers a strange affliction. She can’t recognize faces … even her own.

It all began ten years ago, when Ms. Fall underwent surgery to control intractable seizures. On the operating table, she suffered a stroke that damaged part of her brain. She completely lost her ability to recognize and remember faces. Her memory of events and conversations and facts is as good as anyone else’s. It’s only faces that trip her up.

Most of us can close our eyes and visualize a face—a loved one, a friend, a colleague, heroes …. Tara Fall can’t even do that; she has no memory of faces. Period.

It has a fancy name: prosopagnosia, literally “face ignorant.” Apparently it’s a defect in part of the brain dealing with visual information. Those afflicted can see your eyes, ears, mouth, and nose, but they can’t put it all together to recognize who you are. In fact, they can’t even tell their own faces apart. Faces seen, but not known.

And it seems to afflict two percent of the population. So about six million people in the U.S. are “face ignorant.” Apart from this, their brains, including their optic apparatuses, function normally; most have 20/20 vision. It is a selective disruption of the capacity to recognize faces.

There is, neuroscientists think, a computational machine in the brain (“the fusiform face area”) that is devoted to processing faces. Injuries to this part of the brain from strokes and gunshot wounds can cause prosopagnosia. But beyond that, we don’t know how the brain does it. The face-processing black box.

Prosopagnosics learn to compensate. The recognize people by their hairstyle, or clothes, or voices, or the way they walk. Or they use a process of elimination: “I’m the only one in the room, so the person in the mirror must be me.”

“If my kids were to change clothes when they’re at school … if they were to try to trick me, they’d probably get away with it,” Ms. Fall confessed.

Some can’t see faces after a disaster. Others, like Fanny Crosby born blind, never saw one … in this world. This prolific writer of 8,000 hymns looked forward to her death—because the first face that she really would see would be that of her Lord, Jesus Christ.

Some day the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But oh, the joy when I shall wake
Within the palace of the King!
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace!
Fanny Crosby (1891)

This hymn was one of her favorites—her “soul poem” she called it.

As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness;
I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.
Psalm 17:15

Or as a more contemporary song-writer said:

Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I seek
And when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me
Keith Green (1980)

When You said, “Seek My face,”
my heart said to You,
“Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”
Psalm 27:8

And one day, soon and very soon, we will see his face.

There will no longer be any curse;
and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
and His bond-servants will serve Him;
they will see His face,
and His name will be on their foreheads.
Revelation 22:3–4

And until then, while we live in these in-between times …

God be gracious to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us.
Psalm 67:1



  1. Marcy November 8, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Haven’t seen your face in a while, Abe. Come visit soon.


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