If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by the fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
“Let’s burn our masks at midnight
and as flickering flames ascend,
under the witness of star-clouds,
let us vow to reclaim our true selves.
Done with hiding and weary of lying,
we’ll reconcile without and within.
Then, like naked squint-eyed newborns,
we’ll greet the glorious birth of dawn;
blinking at the blazing, wondrous colors
we somehow failed to notice before.”
― John Mark Green
Although I have written several blog posts about manifestations of the mask wearers–their tendencies toward denial, their insensitivities to the needs of others, their narcissisms, etc., I am not sure that I have ever simply written about masks; yet, I feel sure that the People of the Lie [as Scott Peck calls them] began by simply putting on a false face–and then, the falseness became the face.
“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
The problem with mask wearers is that they spend an inordinate amount of time looking around, trying to decide what and who are not offensive. Because mask wearers are always looking at others, to find the best masks, they cease to look within. Most people wear masks now, and most of what the person looking outward sees is others who are looking outward themselves. Everything becomes artifical–shells of people model themselves after other shells of people. In no time at all, the mask wearer loses sight of what is real–of what is authentic.
“Opinion’s but a fool, that makes us scan the outward habit by the inward man.”
― William Shakespeare, Pericles
Kierkegaard says that there will eventually come a time when everyone will be forced to remove their masks:
“Don’t you know that a midnight hour comes when everyone has to take off his mask? Do you think life always lets itself be trifled with? Do you think you can sneak off a little before midnight to escape this?”
― Søren Kierkegaard
Does this suggest that everyone will eventually see their mistakes toward others and will swing back around, righting their wrongs? At one time, I believed that people who have hurt me will one day reconsider their behaviors and regret, but I don’t believe that now. I am quite sure that I will die and there will still be many fences around some of the people from my past–fences that were never mended–gates will that remain locked. Some people have worn masks for such a long time that I am not sure that they can remove them now.
“We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.” – Patrick Rothfuss
Oh, What A Dangerous Web We Weave When First We Practice to Deceive–Ourselves!
The true tragedy is that mask wearers opt to function with blinders on. As they are scrutinizing themselves to eradicate anything offensive about themselves that remains there, they begin to remove anything that is unique and colorful, too. “They throw away the baby with the bath water.”
“She did not know yet how sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colorful parts, cunning or powerful or even marvelous, beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts. They do this because they are afraid of the world and of being stared at, or relied upon to do feats of bravery or boldness. And all of those brave and wild and cunning and marvelous and beautiful parts they hid away and left in the dark to grow strange mushrooms—and yes, sometimes those wicked and unkind parts, too—end up in their shadow.”
― Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
“She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by-
And never knew.” – Shel Silverstein
©Jacki Kellum October 23, 2016
I remember when Shel Silverstein’s book of poems Where the Sidewalk Ends was published. I had been married for a couple of years and I was not technically a child, but Silverstein’s book of poetry was perfect for me, regardless of my chronological age. In fact, when I read his poem The Invitation, I felt as though he had written it just for me. I still feel that way. To this very day, 42 years later, The Invitation is my favorite poem, and its words have become my mantra, and such is the power of great words. In 50 words or less, Shel Silverstein had convinced me that there was at least one other adult who was the same kind of dreamer and hope-er and magic bean buyer as I have always been, and he had assured me that it was okay.
I never thought about it before, but I actually grew up just past where the sidewalk ended. I am saying this in both a literal and a metaphorical way. When I was very young, my street was one street behind my town’s main street, which was actually a state highway that ran through my town. Until I was about 10-years-old, my street was not paved. I grew up on a gravel road, and vast cotton fields began to stretch four houses beyond my house. As a child, I had the best of both worlds. I lived in a little town, but the country was only a stone’s throw away from me. I grew up with my feet in both worlds.
Probably when they paved my street, they also added a short stretch of sidewalk, but my house was always just beyond where the sidewalk ended. Because I grew up with a unique set of parents, this was true in more ways than one. My dad was known as the town’s cartoonist. He actually took a cartooning course that was offered by an outfit known as The Famous Artists. While other kids’ dads farmed, my dad drew cartoons, and believe me–in a small, rural town, that reality set my family apart.
When I was a child, the Famous Artists Courses were advertised in magazines, and my dad was the kind of magic bean buyer who would purchase a course like the one offered by Famous Artists. Back in the 1950s, $275.00 was a lot of money–especially for country folks to spend on an art course, but I grew up in a home where the fluff was deemed important, and not surprisingly, that was instrumental in my becoming who I am.
Even though my dad had already purchased the cartoon course that was advertised in the magazines, I grew up taking the drawing tests, too. I drew every one of the test subjects–the pirate, the cowboy, the pin-up girl, and many other things. I was a child who grew up in a tiny cotton town that was hundreds of miles away from the nearest city, and it was during the 1950s. When I was very young, color television had not been invented, and everything about the Famous Artists Course was exotic to me. You cannot tell it in the photographs, but the books were massive. Yet, when I was still a still a little girl, I would drag out the books and do my very best to copy what I saw. Needless to say, one of my college degrees and master’s degrees is in art.
On the other side of the coin, my mother was always interested in writing. She actually wrote articles and stories and sold them to magazines. My mother has always been a private person, and I do not remember reading what she was writing, but from the time of my earliest childhood, I recall my mother’s writinIng, in her spare time. That also influenced me, and I also have a master’s degree in English, with an emphasis in writing. I cannot stress how unique my parents were, especially compared to the other adults in my tiny town, and because of my parents’ uniqueness, I felt that I had permission to become who I am today.
When I read Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, I tend to puff out my chest. I am aware of the fact that I have followed a different path than most other adults–especially compared to people who grew up during the 1950s and in little country towns. And Frost’s poem validates me. Like Shel Silverstein, he says words that ring true to me. I know that I have taken the road less traveled by, but when I honestly examine my life. I was actually BORN on the road not taken. At least, I grew up on the road not taken by most. I was a child of hope-ers, dreamers, and magic bean buyers. Both literally and figuratively, I grew up beyond where the sidewalk ends, “And that has made all the difference.” Some people might think that this was a curse, but I view it as a blessing. I love the way that I live my life. Thank you, mom and dad.
©Jacki Kellum September 3, 2016