A Saturday Caesura
A brief history lesson: Michel Montaigne was a French nobleman who lived during the 16th century. He liked to think and write. Over his lifetime, he wrote a lot of words about a lot of things. Eventually, all his “little attempts” at writing and thinking were collected into a book he called “Les Essais” and the essay genre was born. So what did Montaigne think and write about? Check out these titles: “On Cannibals,” “On Thumbs,” “On the Wearing of Clothes in Public,” “On Fear.”
If he were alive today, maybe he would write about the wearing of masks, too…
Because who knew that in the 21st century mask wearing would lead to so many debates, protests, law suits, so much intense emotion and divisiveness. We can’t breathe. We feel uncomfortable. We don’t like being mandated to wear one. We demand our rights. Our glasses fog up.
The deep irony is, of course, that we humans are actually amazingly adaptive to mask wearing. We put on masks to hide our deepest breath-robbing, heart-throbbing fears, to put a new face on our discomforting guilt or shame. Being our own master means the right to wear whatever mask best suits our need to appear the way we think others want us to be or to hide the parts we don’t want anyone to know. Our closets are full of masks for all occasions:
Don’t want your friend to know you are intensely jealous of her? There’s a mask for that (it may look a little critical and snarky, but hey, better that than admit to jealousy.)
Don’t want anyone to see the crippling guilt you carry because of a harmful choice you made? Yup, got one for that, too (it may be a little bold and boastful, but it should cover all that unnerving insecurity if you wear it consistently enough).
Don’t want anyone to know the pain and loneliness that overwhelm your very existence? You could choose the classic Perpetual Smile mask, or perhaps the more ‘modern’ Zen-Mode version. Like everything mask-related, you have choices. Many, many choices.
Some of us wear so many masks that we don’t even know who we are without them.
I’m wondering if it’s time to just put on that cloth face mask that may actually prevent someone else from getting sick and put our energies into the unmasking of our attempts to remake ourselves into someone we think we can live with when God has told us all along that being made in his image is unfathomably good. Believing this and living accordingly does require trust, humility, wisdom, authenticity, and truth. But no masks. Zilch. Zero. Nada.
Montaigne probably would have a lot more to say about this topic than I do (and he for sure would have quoted Cicero and Socrates and not used the word ‘zilch,’) but maybe part of being authentic is to reflect on truth. And that is simply what I attempt to do in these Saturday musings.