Scholar and noted mythologist Joseph Campbell taught that all peoples in all times idealize human potential in a “Hero’s Journey":
Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, a plastic surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, has led the surgical team that has performed all of the full face transplants in the United States. Pomahac explains, “Full face transplantation include the forehead, eyelids, nose, lips, chin, and cheeks, with or without underlying bone… [and] has been considered nearly impossible, because of the complexity of the blood supply—as well as ethical, psychological, and social implications."“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
In 1997—the year, incidentally, that doctors had to excavate my own face to get at a fast-growing bone cancer in the sinus space behind my right cheekbone—the hot action thriller was a fabulist brain teaser called Face-Off: Bad-guy Nicholas Cage switches faces with good-guy John Travolta, effectively becoming each other for the balletic chase and spectacular explosion of those climactic cigarette boats. In the end, the bad guy dies and the good guy gets Travolta’s face back. It was diverting and preposterous.
And it is always a hero’s journey.
Thanks to Mr. Khatchadourian and The New Yorker for giving Dallas Wiens, Dr. Pohamac, and all the others, the epic context they deserve.