In a World of High Level Deception, what Lies behind the Mask?

5 03 2010

We all wear a mask on a daily basis. It is in a constant of flux as situations and individuals impose themselves into our area of personal space, other human beings whose masks betray or hide their true face.

From the fixed smile of the bank employee as you attempt to gain information on your own financial situation to the look of complete boredom that an underpaid council operative gives as he empties your environmentally sound dustbin, it is the continual reworking of expression that determines what we perceive.

Our mask can be anything, it is the varied nature of our outward disguise that allows us to exist.

Individual cynicism and despair can be hidden away behind enforced jollity and humour, it is well documented that comedians and clowns are normally the ones for whom the public face and pressure of having to constantly entertain leads them to periods of intense depression, their only escape being drink, drugs and ,in extreme cases, suicide.

It is not just the people who entertain that feel the need to maintain the air of happiness and confidence.

How many flight attendents enjoy doling out luke-warm tasteless food to 250 rejects from a shell- suit convention or to a succession of so called high flyers consumed by their own importance and believing that travelling first class actually gives them the right to treat people as if we live in a feudal age? Yet the smile remains in place, only the eyes reveal the true feeling.

Occasionally we identify with individuals who place a mask over their face, to obscure their identity, to maintain some element of mystery whilst simultaneously allowing us to see further into the very core of their being.

Movie goers flock to see films where the hero dresses as a bat or merely need to add a pair of glasses to merge seamlessly into the background. We attend the theatre or turn on the television to watch actors portray other characters who too have their own mask, these people are performing on a level to allow us to see other faces, they are chameleons for our pleasure. When we meet these people outside the confines of the imaginary world that has been created for our entertainment, we are surprised that they are not what we expected.

How can they be when we have not considered what is their true face?

It was Jung who considered the “concept of self”, and how building faith in you leads to our own self concept, and perversely how people perceive us. Through the outward face, we can hide our own imperfections and insecurities.

Many women will not venture into the world without “putting on my face”, the application of a sheen of cosmetics presenting an air of confidence that is false, a face that does not have the belief to exist without the comfort of the latest product from Laboratoire Garnier (or equivalent). By the same chalk, we now live in a metrosexual world where a variety of scrubs, gels, cleansers and assorted other products allow the male of the species to present his perfectly cleansed face to the world.

I want to see these people stripped of their mask, I want to see the real face of humanity but I think I will be disappointed.

We all wear masks.

As we continue to evolve so do the many different faces that we present to the world, to our friends and family, to our colleagues and to the people that we interact with on a daily basis.

Richard Ashcroft of The Verve sang that “it’s a bitter sweet symphony that’s life”, he was “a million different people from one day to the next”, and this song retains a very special place in my life.

I am constantly changing my face, I adjust my mask according to the situation that presents itself and in that way I am no different to the rest of humanity.

The only person who knows my true face stares back from the mirror every day, but sometimes I can hide even from him.

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