Out of habit most of us pretend to be something different than what we are. After all, there are so many parts of ourselves that we wish we could change (or just get rid of) — and that we don’t want others (and often our own selves) to have to see.
We generate our own personal mask to deal with this conflict: a version of ourselves that we present to others. Sometimes our mask appears friendly, helpful, useful, caring, creative, brilliant — all the things that we would like ourselves to be all the time. Or, we may appear, brutal, dark, demented, twisted — in order to hide from ourselves and others our essential vulnerability. We may have different masks for different situations.
An advertiser with a lot of money keeps projecting an invented image about a specific product for years and years. But inevitably, if the thing that’s being advertised isn’t really what it promises to be, the story falls apart. Human beings have a relentless gift for seeing what is true.
It takes an enormous amount of energy (or money) to keep holding a mask. And over time, we may even forget that we’re doing it at all. Selling ourselves becomes a habit, and we forget that we’re acting. We think we are the mask.
It’s a little bit a like GM hiding problems with the braking systems of their cars for years and years — those problems eventually (and inevitably) start killing people.
Things we don’t like about ourselves (but that exist) escape from the prison we put them in from time to time — often in sudden uncontrolled bursts that hurt others. Ashamed, we build another layer of mask to hold our true nature down.
One day, if we’re lucky, we’re exhausted by this game. In the same way that we become exhausted by the endless, highly-tailored lies told to us by ad salesmen, we stop believing the lies we tell ourselves, and that we tell to others as well. Then we run out of energy, and collapse.
If the time isn’t right, we pick ourselves up and begin again. Like a runaway in a new town, we assume a new name, invent a new mask. The cycle repeats.
But if the timing is right, we instead just give up, and drop the mask completely.
Then we feel naked, scared and exposed.
X=X, there is nowhere to hide.
We realize without a doubt that our heart may stop beating at any time. The brakes of the car we are driving may just stop working. There are no guarentees. This realization doesn’t go away, it’s always here.
Life is both meaningless and meaningful in a way that we can never reconcile. There is not one of us that is not also helpless, selfish, angry, talentless, ignorant, deluded, broken-hearted, scared, and lost.
The artist, no matter his or her personality — no matter how crazy or neurotic, egotistical or humble — mines their own ugly personal truth to create work that moves us.
The level of appreciate that we feel when we see something something new is proportional to the depth of our own mask, and our willingness to lift it up for a moment, take a peek, and see what’s inside.