Masks. They’ve been falling upon my water-logged life like raindrops in a storm lately. So much so, in fact, that if I believed in meaningful coincidences, I’d think the Universe had a message for me. Or at least was doing again what the Universe seems to enjoy doing so well: toying with me like a cat does a captured mouse.
First, a friend tells me that she’s trying out new masks with a new set of friends. I’m glad she’s self-aware enough to realize this is what she’s doing, but these friends suck (if you ask me, which you didn’t) and I predict these masks are going to give her the worst kind of acid wash; but what can I do? Wisdom and pain are like two sides are the same perverse coin in this world, and we each must learn our lessons in our own way and in our own time).
Then I watch V for Vendetta (yeah, I’d recommend this movie), and the Stephen Fry character says, “You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it,” and V, himself, tells Evey, “There is a face beneath this mask, but it’s not me.”
And then I come across this quote (on Pinterest of all places) from Andre Berthiaume (a modern author I had never heard of before): “We all wear masks. And there comes a time when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.”
And THEN (this is all within a few weeks!), I’m reading the novel Shogun by James Clavell and there’s this passage: a man has three hearts: “a false heart in his mouth for all the world to see, another in his breast to show his very special friends and his family, and the real one, the true one, the secret one, which is never known to anyone except himself, alone.”
And before I know it, I’m thinking again of that universally asked question: Who am I? Which me is me?
I have spent years, decades, trying to figure myself out, and I feel I know myself less now than ever. I know the Buddha (who, with Jesus of Nazareth, I feel best grasped Life) said that our personalities are not eternal, but are compound things that fall apart with the body. And I know from psychological studies that brain damage can cause changed personalities within the same body.
I try so hard –and long so much– to be at all times my true and imperturbable Self. But how can I be this “Self” if I don’t even know who my Self is?
Oh yeah, I also recently watched Sophia Coppola’s Lost In Translation, and Bill Murray’s character says, “The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” And I try soooo hard to put this idea into practice, to just be myself and float through the world at peace, not allowing petty events and small-minded people to bother me– and yet —at work and at home (roommates! urrrghh!)— I find myself perturbed and resentful and falling into all the usual game-playing routines and societal roles.
This may be the most important frustration of middle age (and yes, with the human life span being what it is, I have to admit I have entered my middle period, like it or not… and I oh so don’t!): to have the wisdom in my head, but not be able to fully absorb it in my heart.
When I’m feeling particularly self-delusional, I tell myself that I will obtain self-knowledge and peace before I die, but the odds are long against it. Life is troublesome. Life is worrisome. In fact, Life is pretty much a synonym for Struggle.