With the arrival of the new year, I've decided to periodically focus this blog on aspects of behavior that might stand in the way of improving ourselves and our magical path. I think the first step should be about who we really are, under all the costumes, masks, and paste jewels.
Once upon a time...I had a friend. We grew up together. I always wanted to be a writer. She always wanted to sing.
We went to different schools, both elementary and secondary. I focused on college prep and English. She did Drama. I pushed for good grades; she pushed to be noticed. Upon graduation, I went to University. She went to acting school in New York.
From there, I worked, wrote, and taught. From acting school she basically quit going to auditions after one or two. She bemoaned the fact that what I wrote was sustainable and able to be viewed after the fact. Yet a stage performance was fleeting, past tense. Unless filmed, it was ethereal, a mere memory. Why bother? So, she married her high school sweetheart. He did electrical work in theaters while she found what work she could. Despite that, she always wore the mask of “Actor”.
Later, after her husband died of a work related illness and she won a large law suit, she no longer needed to work. She could focus on a singing career, and now wore the mask of “Jazz Singer”. She was always preparing for a career, but never really worked to make it happen. She'd buy books, sheet music, a keyboard so she could teach herself to play... but she didn't. She had “no time” to take lessons, get a vocal coach, look for venues where she could sing. In fact, all she had was time. She never seemed to put herself “out there” to face rejection or success.
Both our fathers were local businessmen. My family had been one of the founders of our little town, and my Dad was well known. So was her father, in his own community. They worked hard for their recognition. My friend began to wear another mask, that of “So-and-So's Daughter”. I remember her saying things like, “Why is that waitress so slow with my 3 minute egg? Doesn't she know who I am? I'm So-and-So's Daughter!” I would point out that even if she were Queen, a 3 minute egg would still take 3 minutes. My words had no effect.
Time went by and her money ebbed away. For a while, she wore a “victim” mask and either had – or acted – a breakdown. She drank and got high, and had various romances. Eventually she sold the family home, went West to get “cured”, and ended up down south with her widowed mother.
When I last had news of her, she had joined a church. Now the mask was that of “Church Lady”. Or is it a mask? Is this her authentic self? Doe she even know who she truly is? I hope this last turn of events gives her peace, but I don't think she even stopped and asked herself, “Wait..what do I really want? Deep inside, who am I? Does what I do reflect the real me?” I have known this person all my life. I have never known her at all, and I mourn that, but there were too many masks in the way.
I recall yet another friend. The mask she chose to wear seemed to be...me! She decided to like what I liked, started using my vocabulary, even claimed to have the same dreams... It was very disorienting, and disturbing. I think I saw the authentic person when we first met. I liked her. She was slightly darker than I, motivated by different urges and needs, and that was fine. Dealing with a caricature of myself was not.
Lately, I've seen a lot of people playing masquerade. There are a wide variety of masks: “Victim”, “Griever”, “Glory Whore”, “Judge”, “Avenger”. Grabbing a particular mask might be stimulated by excess emotions, sudden changes in Fate, loss, or just a constant craving to be seen in a particular light...or noticed at all.
What I'm NOT seeing are folks following that old adage: “Know thyself”. What is beneath the mask you wear? (And I include myself in that question). Are we so concerned with the “facade” that we neglect the internal nature of our own hearts? The masks I see around me seem to be worn to achieve a purpose, and it's never “contentment” or “inner peace”. Very few choose to stand emotionally bare before others and say, “This is who I am. Love me or hate me, embrace me or beat me, but this is my truth.”
It's an immensely difficult, courageous thing to do. It can't honestly be done as an act of anger. (“Here I am! Take it or leave it, ya berk!”) It can't be done as a plea for affection. (“This is me! The real me! I'm showing myself to you. Please love me!”) It can't be done as a bid for power. (“Here I am! See me? Even stripped of my adornments I'm still better than you, so bring it!”) It has to be an act of love and honor.. an acknowledgment of the pure light within you. If we can't do this in front of others, we should (at least) strive to do it for ourselves alone.
When we were all younger, my friends and I would sing folk tunes at local events. We were pretty good! One of the songs we did, in the round, was a simple chant: May the long time sun shine upon you, may all love surround you, and the pure light within you, guide you all the way on. Here's a newer rendition (same words set to a new tune) which I really like:
If we take time and focus on this, or a similar mantra, perhaps we can send out positive energy to others, and reap some of it for ourselves. Then, in a calmer frame of mind, we can ask ourselves who we really are, what would make us happy. If we weren't busy wearings masks and acting a role, what would we feel free to do? To what use would we put our Magic? Our creativity? Our intelligence?
Our world would be an incredibly changed place.