There is nothing more elusive than the mask a man wears. Modern psychology refers to it as his personality. Babies are devoid of it; endowed with nothing from the narrow gait of birth, save a silent essence. It grows from the rich soil of a child’s mind, watered by the words of others, and fed by the rights and wrongs of a sleeping society. Culture itself wears its own mask, the personality of a city or country so to speak. Built of layers of heritage and tradition, elaborated by the passing whims of time and chance, this larger thing of nature passes down to each man the material by which it serves, forever more, as a solemn unit of the whole.
We make a great mistake to assume ourselves the same thing as our personality. While it is a creature of words, we are an identity beneath and behind the lines and paragraphs of its rhymes and riddles. Man’s personality, utterly unique amidst the natural world, is the very first human technology. Before both fire and the wheel, this is the gift that bestowed mankind with a chance to break from the mould of the purely bestial. It can be quite bereft of sophistication, as can be seen among the savages of the forest and jungle or, quite the opposite, it can be elaborated ad infinitum into the noisy streets of busy hives.
By falling into this trap, by making this mistake of identifying himself with the mask, he drops from reality and into sheer fantasy. The cracks of its disposition are often regarded as virtues. The arbitrary tastes of the mask begin to define the man’s living experience, filtering his steps and shortening his leaps. The mask imprisons the man behind a cage of fixed patterns, forever more gearing him down the same roads and paths. Novelty rarefies in this atmosphere of dense repetition. Whole cultures calcify, fossilize and harden themselves into believing that what is…is all there is.
Cultures wear masks and men wear them too. The large always governs the small, for as it changes, so do then the small. Rome first is corrupted as a personality of its own, then its men and women, boys and girls, follow the same trollied road. Like software in hardware, the programs of masks share the viral spread of false fixations until the quiet becomes loud and the great crumbles down into shattered stone. Yet always do men have the choice, however subtle and unseen, to detach from this staged game and play, and say, “No, no, I stand far apart and far beyond.”