Without doubt life’s a weird dance. A 70+ years’performance with all the intricate twists and turns of inter-personal relationships and attachments. The longer I live the less I seem to know. Yet, maybe that’s the way it was meant to be. At the end of it all maybe we’ll just fall into the compassionate arms of Mystery having done our thing on the dance floor of space-time.
One of the most baffling elements in life is our perception of those close to us. We get to a place where we think we know them, only to be shocked and surprised by some of their newly emerging hidden layers. At times I wonder if we’re just relating to a projection of ourselves – an idealised me, rather than the real other, whoever that may be. I suspect that the majority of our daily interactions operate on this semi-delusional basis. All that we know about the other is the mask which they wear with pride. A camouflaged disguise to throw us off the scent of their inner brokenness and pain. Often, we are merely two masks boosting each others egos, a little mutual appreciation society that gets us both through the day.
Of course we can easily switch masks at the drop of a psycho-spiritual hat. Our numerous little sub-personalities, those that comprise ego, have quite a store of them from which to draw upon. A face for every situation under the sun methinks. Like some frantic trick or treater we are skilled at flashing up a new face in order to get what we need, viz. a little care and attention to numb our debilitating internal pain. Is it any wonder that relationships come and go, prospering only to eventually hit the rocks of estrangement? Our friend has repeatedly seen all our faces and is growing totally bored with them. Time to move on and admire a new set of masks. “So long! It’s been nice knowing you, or more accurately, not knowing you!”
The dance of the masks has many stages on which to do its thing. Marriage is a classic example of such a performance area. Many marriages break down as the power of the illusion begins to lose its efficacy, finally revealing what the other person was really like all along. Paradoxically, marital mask wearing is a pretty dangerous game, for as it draws us ever closer together, we automatically open ourselves up to the possibility of our mask slipping. Our fantastical romantic projections fall away, leaving us with just another flawed human being, one crying out for authenticity and love. Shocked, some of us miraculously find a new love within, one with which to embrace the other’s now deeply apparent brokenness. Others, exhausted by the endless marrital games of hide and seek, decide enough is another and run for the nearest divorce lawyer. Licking our relational wounds we hide away until another mesmerising mask passes our way, enticing us into a brand new love dance.
Collective mask dances also prove to be potent protectors in our ego’s defensive armoury. “There’s safety in numbers,” we reason before signing up and joining in. Bumping into numerous others on the dance floor of communal swing, makes us feel much safer for a while. Much social belonging takes this tantalising form. Yet, we interact on the basis of keeping our hidden Self behind a jolly veil of whole-hearted participation. Sadly, a high proportion of our religious involvements within those pietistic families known as church, tend to fall into this category. Churches aren’t really set up for stark realities, for such realities would explode the often superficial group dynamic almost as soon as it was established. No, we all have available to hand a convincing religious self, a devout mask with which to deal with the depth of interaction required in our particular sect of choice. Just turning up with a beatific smile each Sunday is all that’s required for some groups. Others ask a lot more of us, in terms of time, energy and above all cash, along with a zealous believer’s mask, one that reinforces the control of the collective group narrative. Yet, as soon as reality begins to break through an unwelcome chink in a member’s psycho-spiritual armour and their mask falls to the ground, the collective quickly offers them a replacement mask, one to be pitied and prayed for in the continuing religious dance. Of course, the alternative response is a swift expulsion, a communal act of isolation that sends the maskless one out into the desert darkness of unbelief.
So, when we interact with those around us today, let’s see if we can identify our mutual, multifaceted masks. For behind such veneers lie real people, those buried in the pain of ego entanglement. A little act of courage on our part, may see us removing one of our precious masks, thus allowing the other to reciprocate. The first, healing steps toward a genuinely authentic connection. Yet, to achieve such an intimate level of inter-personal knowing first requires our own internal knowing. Only Spirit can draw us into our own persoanl dark room, that Silence where we sit naked and alone with Source. But more of that next week.