“ There is only one woman in the world. One woman, with many faces.”
-Nikos Kazantzakis, Last Temptation of Christ
The above is quoted about two or three times in the film version of Last Temptation of Christ by the character that represents the Devil.
In one particular case, Christ is tempted to commit adultery and the Devil convinces him by saying, “There is only one woman in the world. One woman, with many faces.” Jesus then goes ahead and has sex with the sister of Mary Magdalene, his wife.
That certain line always stuck with me, the basis of the idea is a justification for many partners and that the essence of an individual can be felt in any other just the same. The idea of that individuals can fulfill the basic comforts of a romantic partner is the hallmark of the statement.
One person, with many faces. Like cuddling with your platonic friend or having sex with a stranger — one person, many faces. The essence of romance is fulfilled for a moment. And though the Devil is the character preaching this doctrine, there is a level of wisdom involved in the thought behind the phrase.
First, let’s look at where the wisdom fails:
The nexus of the idea is that one woman should be satisfactory enough for a man. The Devil understands the tenets of Judaism and sacred marriage laws, but the Devil is clever in that the bending is as simple as adjusting perception: many faces, one woman.
This thinking draws upon the universal archtypes of one body, one soul and the belief in kindred spirits: one soul in two bodies or many bodies. Of course, then, Nikos Kazantzakis is the originator of the quote, so the genius is better attributed to him than the fictional character of the Devil in his book.
Looking at the decision to have the orator of the phrase be the Devil is key to better understanding the fullness of the idea behind the quote.
Simply put, it’s a trick, but one with profound insight into the temptations of mankind; with an understanding of the fluidity of perception that one can subscribe to, it’s easy to appreciate the brilliance behind the deception. It’s also important to note that Jesus thinks the Devil is an angel of God, the Devil is portrayed by a girl that never ages.
Where the wisdom succeeds is in the modern mindset of dating. By ancient definition, the manner of dating in the modern sense is adulterous.
The tricky thing here, though, is that the quote has truly magnified itself within society and won. One person, many difference faces — we have things such as serial daters, dating multiple people at one time in order to find the best choice and make them our girlfriend or boyfriend, or extramarital relationships that have become extremely common.
One woman, many different faces is now the norm. We don’t like to think of it that way, to satisfy ourselves with many people at one time still holds a stigma, but a majority of us are more or less practicioners of “One Woman, Many Faces”.
I know I am.
I’ve been in love once, and I look at the love my parents had and seek that out for myself — I try and imitate the best qualities of the relationship where I was truly in love and now, I realize when love fails me it hurts a lot harder than it did before I knew what true love was.
What this does, is create a vacuum that sucks out several different options and no more is it “one woman, many faces”, but one face for many women: one personality in several different individuals. I’m trying to recreate the exact things that worked in my true romance elsewhere. And I want to get it right and won’t settle until I do, because I won’t allow myself to get it wrong in my lifetime.
That’s where the fault is and that’s where the Devil is right.
One woman to comfort me, and many different personalities to fulfill that comfort. I must be mindful to the insight that love is for comfort, security, and community — it’s there to fulfill those things. Anybody, really, can fulfill the fundamentals of those three things, even a pet.
It’s the reason people think it’s a good idea to have children after they sense community (or friendship) with their partner dwindling — children provide the extra community, but also play to the security of the relationship in where they can lock down a partner and well, comfort comes in the form of sex or the simple petting of a dog or cat — the same amount of stress can be relieved through both activities.
We’re affectionate creatures and if we learn to satisfy the basic necessities of our longings with one person, any person then we have mastered love.
One woman, one face I can relate with is all I seek. And it’s important to never forget how many other faces had to be shaped in order to find the perfect face for you.