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  • Andre Lamartin

On the Wearing of Many Masks

When looking himself in the mirror, little good does it do a man to fool the entire world, but not himself. The only truth to be found in acting is the disillusion of living only to make believe. While pretending to lead another's life, a true actor must first abandon his own. If the values for which he stands are not openly disclosed, then perhaps they were never his values in the first place. A man who wears many masks wakes up one day only to realize even those close to him can no longer tell the difference. Acting is not simply a profession, but a ubiquitous way of life. Unless one is willing to look far beyond the realm of superficial appearances, the extent to which every human being can be considered an actor is not a matter to be taken lightly.

For someone always fascinated with cinema and theater, it is a sobering realization that time spent valuing false heroes is time unspent valuing real ones. When fiction is sold as a specious verity specifically tailored to satisfy popular demand, one must resist the temptation of succumbing to overpowering alienation. The greatest merit in embracing the truth, while relinquishing all fear of rejecting a mendacious life, is the self-awareness of knowing whom we really are, and what we really stand for. The brave at heart would much rather be sincerely rejected for whom we truly are than falsely accepted for whom we never were, but could possibly pretend to be. As time is never on the side of those whose lives are built on lies, unless a clear distinction is made between fact and fiction, one can never truly love and be loved. If the entire world's a stage, as Shakespeare once argued, there is a dire price to pay if we are simply to play a part.

Those living in a mendacious world, where lies are the only acceptable currency of trade, know all too well they can only be falsely loved and appreciated for whom they pretend to be, not for whom they truly are. The manipulation of innermost feelings and expectations creates a deceptively fragile bond between people that can easily be broken if the truth is ever spoken.That a loved one should prefer wearing a mask to revealing her true face speaks only of the need to satisfy the expectations of another, often quite unrealistic in their own regard. Entirely based on a fictional construct, this false love is eventually revealed for all it really is: an ersatz sentiment inevitably leading only to disillusionment, rage, and sorrow. Since falling in love with a lie never amounts to a redemptive truth, spiritual and emotional salvation can only remain far away from view.

Interpersonal relationships then become dangerous minefields where a step in the wrong direction can easily lead to self-destruction. When lies disguised as truth instigate others to assume onerous personal obligations, dispelling this fiction can be the cause of great spiritual pain. Much to the displeasure of the same audience, once so enthralled by the fictional life temporarily embraced as reality, the final curtain call tears down this dramatic world of make believe, revealing the thespians involved for whom they really are, always in stark contrast to the fictional characters they once pretended to be. The ensuing spiritual pain is not merely a matter of open speculation, but an empirical certainty defying any cursory explanation. That so much time and effort could have been so sincerely invested in a failed relationship is indeed a sobering realization. As if the remembrance of lost time wasn't debilitating enough, the entire failed experience only further stresses the importance of continuing to base all future relationships on the bedrock of truth. Assuming your significant other is always willing to comply, the bond of truth based on mutual trust safeguards one's personal life from much unnecessary drama. Unfortunately, good advice is freely given only to be costly disregarded, much to the consternation of all parties involved. Laudatory towards the truth as these words may be, only hard-earned personal experience can ever justly describe the real folly of erecting one's life on a foundation of lies.

In the professional world, when success becomes the only standard of truth to be seriously considered, no sacrifice is ever spared for its attainment. If the sole driving force behind boundless ambition is the unquenchable lust for power, money, fame, sex, and glory, lying is the least of all worries, as the ends are always seen to justify the means. Those populating this world of make believe usually become villains who rarely recognize themselves as such, treating moral and religious values as inconvenient impediments to a blinding, all-encompassing concept of survival dressed as success, one making absolutely no provision for the need to truly love and be loved. When the truth becomes a sacrificial offering at the infernal altar of success, true love can only succumb, as most dare not confess. The popular notion that those who refrain from cheating are simply not striving hard enough to succeed stems from this world view, one presenting competition as a war of all against all with nothing standing in between. Those living in such a perfidious world, entirely devoid of rules, can hardly call themselves truly free, especially when subjected to the arbitrary abuse of power. If this is the sole proposition on offer, even atheists should first investigate the existing spiritual world before rejecting all they so miserably fail to understand. Wearing masks, simply in the name of professional success, is always done in the service of lies that openly conspire against one's spiritual well-being.

As Jesus once taught, the Devil is the father of all lies, having many sons and daughters always willing and able to do his bidding. Unfortunately for them, being a father doesn´t imply loving his children. Killing and lying from the very beginning, the Devil has set an example closely followed by his worshippers. Those who full-heartedly embrace acting, not as an occasional professional occupation, but as a full-time lifestyle, are never doing so in the service of the Gospel. This is especially true of those acting solely to amass power. Only so often can we still pretend that politicians and all like-minded thespians really mean what they say, irrespective of the personal opinion one might have regarding democracy itself. How any government can purport to represent the best interests of the people while relying almost entirely on lies and deceit is an inherent contradiction that completely undermines the true democratic nature of Western political governance, debasing the long overdue importance never sincerely accorded to the truth itself. That the self-indulgence of a few can be said to represent the best interests of the many requires a certain gullibility so characteristic of societies built on the false illusion of true political representation.

Having enmity with this fallen world that so openly worships lies only to negate the relevance of true love, Christians are asked to reject the false illusions of a splendorous earthly paradise accessible only to those willing and able to do its bidding. When the underlying concept of merit becomes inextricably related not to hard work itself or innate talent, but to a pathological willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed, the truth is seen as an unnecessary burden, while love remains a heavy cross to bear. Tragic as this road to success may sometimes be, great is the clarity of mind found when one´s vision is not impaired. While the wearing of many masks may deceive society at large, a man of religious conviction and rational discernment is well prepared to see past these disguises. One can only wonder who rises to the top of a false meritocracy that eschews the truth and debases love, all along conjuring an enticing vision of worldly success that compels so many to kneel before its dictates. The seemingly powerful who benefit from this chaotic order often guarantee its protracted continuance by falsely presenting themselves as saviors preordained by popular will to lead their people into an imaginary promised land. As the same drama, so characteristic of stage life and the silver screen, also pervades our ordinary lives, one is well advised to exercise extreme caution and profound discernment.

In the political realm, as false appearances can certainly be deceiving, one must always remain vigilant. False leaders presenting themselves as Biblical wolves in sheep's clothing should never be derisively dismissed, as they have always made their presence felt, especially where least expected. Since time immemorial, they have conspired against, infiltrated, and destroyed even the most outwardly respectable, but inwardly sanctimonious of human institutions, including religious ones as well. Frequently weaponized to this avail, lies have often entered history books as the very incontestable representation of the truth itself, leading astray future generations just as past ones were deceived before. That politicians should transform public life into a meaningless drama, albeit one having dire consequences even for the characters only silently involved, is revealing of a troubled world long ago transformed into a stage. Little can then be said of the public good, when the truth is solely bound by one's own imagination, and public policy becomes an instrument almost entirely dedicated to the pursuit of vested interests. What many fail to understand is that the demise of public institutions is generally preceded by the self-destruction of its own political leaders, those inhabiting an illusory world of make believe, only eventually forced to face reality itself. As a social fabric sewn with lies can only be used to conceal the truth, the concept of loving your neighbor as yourself serves only to elicit derision, almost to the point where very little can be said in the defense of the public good.

As altruism is clearly out of stock, perhaps only rational self-interest can be conscripted to meet demand. A man who irresponsibly soils the image and reputation of the institutions to which he belongs should at the very least consider the impact on his own self. Even leaders who dismiss the social and historical impact of their own lies should at least consider the damage done to themselves. In a world where acting has almost become a universal way of life, assessing how a man views himself is critical to understanding how he perceives and relates to others. Valuing self-perception is duly important because a man's vision of himself directly impacts his worldview, social interaction, and approach to life itself. Only by first contemplating his own reflection on the mirror does a man then decide what image to project to the world at large. How a man presents and positions himself before the world stage is inextricably related to his own concept of himself and the values for which he stands. This personal stance taken before the world molds his public image, and affects his social interaction with others, influencing how society as a whole treats and addresses him. Barring a religious commitment to the truth, his approach to life is then determined by the imperious need to maintain false appearances, guaranteeing the suspension of disbelief for the story he wants to tell. If the beguiling truth a man wants to convey amounts to little more than a false perception of reality, acting becomes a central aspect of his dramatic performance, one frequently guided by carefully protected vested interests, always secretly at play.

As the wearing of many masks is required in the protection of vested interests, a politician who values how others perceive him should just as well value his perception of himself. The reflection seen in the mirror is a representation of the image he projects to the world, sometimes fooling others only by first attempting to deceive himself. This is especially true when falling prey to his own personal vanity. The greatest tragedy of looking yourself in the mirror is falling in love with your own reflection, lest doing so may one day seem to justify all that was once entirely unjustifiable. Amid a war of all against all where every man tries to convince the world of his carefully crafted, projected public image, no expenses are spared in this regard, sometimes rendering the truth a heavy burden to bear. Falling in love with oneself, while incessantly demanding public adoration, can divest a man of any false pretense that he should ever abide by the truth. As lies are used at will simply to satisfy popular demand, only religious and moral values can stand in their way. In their absence, a man setting out to enthrall society may only be victimized by his own lies, eventually becoming secluded in a world of alienation where he no longer recognizes his surroundings, not to mention his own self.

While believing in your own lies might convince others to do the same, living in a world of make believe comes at the hefty price of ignoring the real world in which we all must live. This is not to be understated. A man willfully ignoring the troubled world in which he lives should always know this unforgiving world is unlikely to return the favor. Awakening one day only to realize he can no longer understand the world around him or his place in it is only less traumatizing than no longer recognizing himself. As the problem then becomes no longer discrying his own mirror image, the man must always keep in mind the original frame of reference so the transformation back into his true self can be properly attempted. Should the price of worldly success be a suffocating self-imprisonment within the confines of a fictional self, this hardly qualifies as an enticing bargain worth considering. The only truth ever to be found by a man deeply immersed within a world of lies is that he should become the greatest lie of all himself. This is where religion once again comes into play in an attempt to dissuade sinners from selling their own souls in return for the many false promises of a mendacious life. As Jesus once said in Matthew 16:26: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world only to lose his soul?" This Faustian bargain is a losing proposition whichever way a Christian looks at it, but then again, Jesus was clearly not an actor. Taking the road less traveled by is meant only for those who reject the myriad temptations of the flesh, or should we say, the false promises of easily achievable success.

That a select few should refuse to compound a grave mistake with another is cause for great joy. As Saint Paul instructs in Romans 12:21, "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Defending ourselves from pathological liars only by attacking them with their own weapons destroys whatever credibility we once had, much to our future consternation and personal shame. The only way to protect ourselves and our most cherished institutions from the mendacity of inveterate liars is to fully embrace the truth. As Jesus once said in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This essentially means that Christ is the way leading towards salvation, the spiritual truth about existence, the only true source of eternal life, and the sole means by which a believer can reach God himself. That so many of those who profess to worship Christ should refuse to embrace the truth as a religious obligation only speaks of the hypocrisy still so alive within the Church itself. Being sincerely committed to this nuclear foundational teaching implies embracing the truth in all of its many acceptations. Be it at home, in the workplace or in the world at large, living for the truth means defending it at all times. This not only precludes lying, but also acting itself. If a man is to love and be loved at all, he should only be loved for whom he truly is, while kindly returning the favor.

Although some might say this is easier said than done, there can be no religious conversion unless a pious and contrite heart foregoes the manipulation of other human beings, eschewing all the accompanying lying and caustic hypocrisy entailed. If having such a stalwart commitment to the truth seems humanely impossible, be not so quickly discouraged. So long silence is not a tacit denial of faith unbecoming of moments when we are expected to candidly defend our beliefs, there is much that can be said while choosing to remain silent. Communicating with silence may even sometimes be the best option for those who cannot be silenced. A sincere commitment to the truth does not mean irresponsibly volunteering it at every turn, as silence may very well be the most appropriate answer to questions inappropriately asked or maliciously insinuated. Whichever the case may be, of one thing we can be strictly certain. Acting is entirely unnecessary when simply conveying the truth, even if silence is the only unspoken verity offered. A life filled with words can only be deemed truly rich if sincerely motivated by our love for God, as well as our fellow man, candid as these words should always be. The truth once written or spoken reverberates throughout life, allowing others to know whom we truly are and what we really stand for. Always followed by supporting actions offering complete corroboration, our most sincere words are diplomats sent abroad on a heavenly mission. As one can only love and be loved by first truly presenting himself before the world, on the wearing of many masks always be well advised to first consider living with none.


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