"Cover half the face and each side looks like it belongs to a different person, one appearing downcast and uncertain, the other determined. A person speaking with him would in a sense face two Lincolns, one soft and exhausted, the other fiercely alert."
The radically asymmetrical face of Abraham Lincoln. What does it mean? Does it have something to do with the functioning — presumably high functioning — of the hemispheres of his brain? Generally, we find symmetrical faces beautiful, and this asymmetry may be the key reason we see Lincoln as ugly — though we excuse and even love his ugliness because we feel confident we are looking into the face of a great man. But let's think about asymmetry in faces of other human beings. Perhaps we should make a conscious effort to keep looking at the individuals who initially repel us. Is it Lincolnesque asymmetry? And what complexity and power of the mind lies behind that facial dualism?
And let's think about why — if my hypothesis is true — we feel drawn to the people who lack this complexity and power. It might be that we have evolved to feel comfortable interacting with simple, straightforward people, and our eyes and minds are trained by the long experience of the species to see those qualities in a symmetrical face. That is, our ancestors trusted people who were, in fact, trustworthy, and that is why they survived and produced descendants. The nonancestors of human history did not read faces so well and were betrayed by deceitful, duplicitous, wily people with powerful, complex brains.
Our ancestors were successful in their mistrust of 2-faced individuals. But that doesn't mean that today we should shun the ugly. Not all asymmetrics are dangerous. Some, perhaps, are the very greatest human beings — like Lincoln. Now that we are able to think consciously about what lies beneath the repellent face and now that we live an an ordered society, let's not pass up the opportunity to benefit from the minds that show an asymmetrical face to the world. Don't turn away from the ugly.