Friday, October 22, 2004

The masks people put on

Masquerade Posted by Hello

Halloween is coming! Time for those ghosties and ghouls to roam the streets carrying their bags and demanding adults to hand them loads of teeth rotting sweets and candies! Oh wait we’re in Malaysia :) I often fathom how it would be like to dress up and be someone for a change even for just night. We Malaysian never really took into role playing someone else like Americans and European often practice. No masquerade balls, no dress up parties, no fancy dress stints and no costume events (though recently we are loosening up a bit). I haven’t ever don a pirate costume with an eye patch and a fake parrot while shouting “you scurvy rat” nor put on heavy make up, drape a rag and stuff a huge lumpy pillow under my back and walk awkwardly saying “Yes master, Igor be good master!”. I’m still keeping an eye out for an event to do so besides the usual formal dinners ho hum.

For a matter of fact why do people like to don a mask and act out as if they’re someone else? Superheroes are portrayed as ordinary beings but when they don a mask, their alter egos assert themselves and they become whoever they want to be. By putting on a mask we assume we are someone else, the qualities and weaknesses inherent in ourselves hidden behind this new persona, technically we become who we project. We can build a new outer personality to shield our fragile inner self, constructing a better person instead and even fooling the person hiding behind the mask so that they truly believe they can do wonders, all previous fears and inhibition forgotten and for that moment we are our alter egos. The mask lends us a measure of anonymity and mystery, shielding who we truly are from the world without offering a glimpse of our true being until we allow them. In the Phantom of the Opera, the scarred man, ashamed of his disfigurement dons a mask to hide his flaws. He too added another mask, that of the female singer who instead of him, acted as his mask to the world, showcasing her talent of his tutelage and thus connecting the world to him through a proxy whereas he can’t himself. In the end he became too dependent of his mask and covets it so, unable to bear parting with it.

In real life all of us don masks, not the fake rubbery kind, but one made of ego. Each day we face our peers, colleagues, bosses, friends, family, strangers we interact with an outer disposition that may not reflect the true us. Playing a game of cat and mouse whereby the loser will be the one showing any kind of flaw or weakness. We further obfuscate this illusion with our material possessions; clothes, cars, accessories, money and even friends, all serving to distract the other self from looking too deep inside like a magician using smoke and fire to mask how he conducts his trickery. Our masks may differ from the next through appearance, from the self confident lawyer to the surly street beggar but assuredly like there are so many different masks out there like the plain white and neutral faced Kabuki mask to the more elaborate decorated masquerade ball face piece, thus humanity’s mask also cuts crosses this spectrum. Sometimes we put on our masks and play the part so well we lose ourselves in the deception, separating who we are and who we’ve become proves impossible and thus the persona we display actually becomes us. We ourselves might not even know anything has changed.

Certain people make their masks impenetrable that the harshest criticism and challenges wash of without much effect like the raindrops striking the Keladi leaf. Others have outer egos so fragile that a single blow can shatter them outright, exposing the very being they were trying to hide. Only at very few instances do we actually lower our guard and let our true self out. We find someone we trust or a love so great that we deem to share and let them to know the man behind the mask. This is when our guard is at its lowest but also could be the most satisfying for the fact that for once we don’t have to hide anything from that person, being naked and exposed, the very being that is us laid bare. But if betrayal ever sets in, the hurt generated could leave wounds within that even after the donning of a new mask outside, the scars are forever imbedded in the soul of the person.

So do I put on a mask you ask? I most assuredly do but ask yourself if you say no for yourself and if you truly believe it is so.


hyelbaine said...

Everyone's got a mask on and we are all actors in this stage we call life. Some use masks to hide their true feelings or real self while others do it for valid reasons.

The secret is always to know when and to whom the mask should be removed ;)

Cheers!!! :D

bayibhyap said...

Have you seen the legendary Chinese character "Man With A Thousand Masks"? He is really fascinating. This was an art of ancient days in Chinese history where this person has mastered the art of changing a mask within the split of a second. He changes continuously and he is so fast that you can't fathom how it is done. The art is passed down the male lineage and girls were forbidden to learn it. That's why it is so rare today. Every time a master has no son or does not take a male disciple, the art is lost. Recently I saw a TV performance by a Chinese lady who has mastered this skill. Fascinating is an understatement when one tries to describe it.

Kervin said...

Yes heard about the movie and sorely wanted to catch it but somehow can't find it shown or sold anywhere. Must seem magical that a man on stage with a deft flick of the hand could change his mask in a split second to convey the various emotions he is acting out. I recall a few years a go there was an article in the Star about such a person that was touring SEA, a stopover at Singapore perhaps. But it's a dying art like making dragon beard candy, dough figurines, paper cuts etc. Not many masters left and not many people wanting to pick it up.