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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Quoting...is such sweet sorrow Pt. 5

Here's one from Richard Bach...author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and other books.

"If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats." - Richard Bach

So, there have been things said about "masks" on this blog and otherwise, or elsewhere. In fact, one of the things that comes to mind when I hear the word is the Jim Carrey movie, and the line that Ben Stein uses in the movie: "We all wear masks, metaphorically speaking." And it's true. At least that's what I think.

Let's look at the 'physical mask' for a second. By 'physical' I'm referring to tangible masks...the kind you wear on Halloween...or the one that greets you when you visit the local witch doctor. Here's an interesting site that I came across about masks. Of particular interest on this site, which is rather extensive in terms of information, is a section on the 'wearing of masks'. It talks about how people wearing masks become a part of the "spirit force" of the mask. Spirit force...wow...that really got me thinking. I mean, think about it...by wearing a mask, a person takes on characteristics that are outside of her/himself. It begins to get wierd when you think about how this happens...is it truly 'spiritual' or is it more a force of the imagination. But, leaving all that aside for a second, the idea behind the whole thing is that of acting outside of how one normally is. In other words, acting out of character. Personally, I'm prone to doing that to a large extent...but thoroughly uncomfortable doing it. Funny thing is, however, that I've been doing it for so long that I can't remember where I first started. Hmm...so lost that I cannot be found I guess. Well, I have seen people wear masks...still talking about the physical kind here...like at temples. For example, there's Lord Muthappan (or Muthappandevan to all the Malayalees out there, the hunter god), and during a certain time each month, he shows up at the temple...several Muthappans at the many Muthappan temples. So, the discerning, scientific mind easily figures out that it's just a bunch of different people dressed up (no points for that one). But, if you see these people, all dressed up in their outfits, and jumping around and dancing around, as the chendas ('drums' in Malayalam) beat out a rhythm, at times peaceful, at times as stormy as the mightiest gale, you'll realize that there are somethings that can be done purely on the basis of faith. It's amazing, and you can see the person behind the mask working himself into a trance...but actually going up and asking him a question, which is what you're supposed to do after he finishes his dance ritual, you can see that the person behind the mask is not quite there. Pretty wierd, and at times you imagine that it must take a lot of respect to not relapse into this 'character'...but then again, these men are practiced. I know that this is a spiritual example, and it happens in different cultures and places around the world. Just an example, not trying to delve into the spiritual realm on this one.

Now onto the 'masks' that we all wear..."metaphorically speaking". We do it from one day to the next. We wake up in the morning and as we sir down for breakfast (for those of us who do) we interact with family members, and it seems to be our 'true' self. Let's call this Phase 1. Moving along, we step out of the house, and we may smile at neighbors or just jump into your car and drive away (for those of you who do...Public Transport for Life Babeeee!!!) You come across people and you react to them as you would normally do...a person dashes across the road, dangerously close to your vehicle, and you curse her/him...Phase 2. Then you're at work, and the moment you step in you're sort of in "work mode". You say hi to colleagues, and you say hi to your boss...some of us do it the same way and some of us differently...Phase 3. Let's stop here. How often are you the same person at each of these phases? Think about it before you jump in with a, "What the hell yaar. I'm the same all the time!" Here's how it goes for me. From the moment I open my eyes to the time I get out of bed I've already started thinking of the day ahead. In doing so, by the time I sit down for a 'spot of breakfast' I'm pretty much me...or so I think. Some days I'm a bit more myself than I am on other days. Moving on to Phase 2...when people do ridiculous things on the road I begin to react...again, differently from one day to the next. Some days I'll smile, and other days I'll put my head down in sheer disgust...and also because I don't want to witness someone becoming 'roadkill'. Not a major phase this...so on to Phase 3. At work, and sure we all feel more tuned into work on soem days...but have you ever thought about how you react and what 'sides' of yourself you show to those at work? Maybe it's mood swings (would make for a wierd commercial..."Are you male? In your mid-twenties? Do you suffer from PMS?"). Maybe it's the level of comfort that you finally achieve, in which case you let people see your 'layers', like the proverbial onion (thanks Priya). However, there are days when it gets a bit confusing. You begin the day as something, and end the day on a different ntoe...or with a different 'mask'. And, through this entire "masquerade", I struggle to find my real self. I mean, there must have been a point at which I started, right? But what is it...and why is it so important? I think about it, and often with a very 'external' lens...but isn't this another mask? A sort of closed loop paradox...once in never out. Alternatively, it could just be a case of inane mental stimulation...for me that is. But our mask(s) is/are a sort of camouflage. Think about it, like a chameleon we go through our lives adapting to new environments, people, societies, culture, etc.(without the sticky, extendable tongue). Somehow it's demanded of us, and somehow we identify a need to do this and comply. Interesting that we're this way. Even more interesting when you begin to understand/realize that there may not be 'one true' you. Which 'you' is really 'you'? Richard Bach, I thank you...
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