Essays















Wearing a mask

It is a standard element of ‘humanities’ teaching and understanding, that people of any worth make a mask for themselves. What makes you elite, is that you know that you must do this for yourself. The rest of us do it anyway, without noticing. Becoming a man, woman, or whatever, means putting on a mask. Somebody without one is a mere nobody.

Yeats consciously undertook to make himself a mask; and he was indeed a strange man. He was heroic, Celtic, and bardic. Nietzsche theorised about masks because, he said, there is no ‘true self’; besides, you must create yourself. Eliot was the same. I break my rule about not quoting, here:

‘There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
[etc.]’

We must create a persona for ourselves, because there is no ‘true self’. You have to create yourself; it should be understood, that we wear a mask. Most people understand this.

I make this point, growing mildly frustrated by the current climate in humanities teaching, and cultural pressure, and even in law-making in the past few years. Reference LGBTQ and BAME, and all the rest.

Everyone must live under a mask, because by our nature, we have no true self. I heard it said once, that the founder of Facebook wanted everyone to have just one FB profile, and that it would be their ‘true self’. But the founder of Facebook is no philosopher, but rather a young man who got lucky and rich. In truth, nobody has a unique true self.

Some principles

1. A mask, or your personality, is a façade which you have created – in order to fit in; in order to get along with others. That is a first principle.

2. There is no ‘true self’ to be found at the level of social masks and assumed personalities.

I have been frustrated by this kind of enforced idea that we have a ‘true self’, because it is even becoming a legal matter that the mask you happen to create for yourself is actually your ‘true self’; and that, this choice of a fictional characteristic for yourself is protected against anyone questioning it by law. Many youngsters today believe that the mask they have made for themselves is what they actually are. And they are being encouraged to 'discover' their true self in some kind of mask, even when the mask they then choose is the contrary to the physical reality (a form of madness). For instance, they say that they are ‘bi-sexual’, or ‘black’, or ‘a liberated feminist’, or whatever, when these things are no more than skin-deep issues which depend on accidents.

Bear in mind, that C5th freeborn Greeks were all homosexuals in a chaste sort of way - because human beings can choose or have forced on to them any kind of sexual orientation, so trivial and surface-level a matter as it is. We, by contrast, with a Christian heritage, have avoided sexual love if possible, and married heterosexually if it was not.

Having a mask is necessary. But, the first principle is that it should assist you to get along in life, in society. Typically, the mask is created and assumed at a rite of passage event for boys when they become men. The Army is a good place for a man’s character to be formed. The Army creates a kind of mask of honour on a man; he would rather die than let his honour be diminished; he considers himself to be ‘a man’ in this spirit. He is typically then part of his society on that basis. And that persona and those values which he then assumes with that disguise, will last him throughout life, so that he can deal with honour and some kind of equality with other men he meets.

At entry into a Church, a new name is given a person, in the same spirit: it is to say, this is now your new personality and your mask.

A woman, generally, takes on a mask too, in order to have her needs met in life.

But, underneath these disguises, when you are alone with yourself, you will find that all of this is simply a mask, a cover for the emptiness within.

If anyone examines who he really is, or what he most wants, in his solitude, he will certainly find that there is a chaos within, and a babble of stuff consisting of rages, fears, obscure desires, and the like. And deeper than that, a timeless self which has the potential to become divine.

There are two particular exceptions, it seems to me. The first is the Christian, and the second is the new culture of LGBTQ and BAME. The ‘cancel culture’ generation is being taught (that is, our children) in schools and by the state, that your mask is actually who you are. Thus, young people are these days using the innate and essential ability and necessity to choose who you are as a mask, as if it was their actual self. And so, a man chooses to be a woman; another person chooses to be some other sexual characteristic. Race, also, becomes the essential feature of a person, these days. In schools, and by the state, your children will be taught that there is no eternal divine nature of the human being; rather, their self-created mask is what they are. But the mask is, in the first place, only a disguise we take on, in order to get along in life. And in the second place, the mask is superficial and, end of the day, a fiction.

Worse than this, many disguises, now being made legal characteristics of young people (what gender they are, what race they are, etc.) are best suited to making the young person never be able to fit in and get along with other people. So, actually harming the person.

I would like, in my dreams, to see this kind of teaching, and the state’s involvement in it, stopped. And, that the correct understanding of the superficiality of masks and ‘your true self’ to be understood. That is, let us once again assume, or even teach and react against the harmful stuff of LGBQT / BAME stuff going around in our popular and state sanctioned culture, by understanding principle 2, above: that There is no ‘true self’ to be found at the level of social masks and assumed personalities.

The truth of the matter

Here is the actual nature of human being:

‘What I am is an image of God manifest in a spiritual, immortal and intelligent soul, having an intellect that is the father of my consciousness and that is consubstantial with the soul and inseparable from it. That which characterises me, and is regal and sovereign, is the power of intelligence and free will. That which relates to my situation is what I may choose in exercising my free will, such as whether to be a farmer, a merchant, a mathematician or a philosopher. That which is external to me is whatever relates to my ambition in this present life, to my class status and worldly wealth, to glory, honour, prosperity and exalted rank, or to their opposites, poverty, ignominy, dishonour and misfortune.’
[Nikitas Stithatos, On the Inner Nature of Things, 37, Philokalia, Vol. 4, Faber & Faber, 116-7].

As we see, the mask of what rank we are, what sex, what class, what sense of honour we have, what tribe we belong to, is the lowest and most superficial aspect of what we are.

Why teach children to treat their mask as their deepest quality? And why give legal recognition to it, as if it were the essence of what that person is? To do this to young people is to set them up for a life of triviality and misunderstanding, and misery.

Let them understand that they must, unfortunately, become a man if they are a boy; and become a woman if they are a girl; and that the other matters listed here are regarding their skin and the like are even more trivial than that.

Remark

According to Michael Burleigh (‘The Best of Times, the Worst of Times’), Russian politicians and commentators have become accustomed to calling the West ‘Gayropa’ rather than ‘Europa’. This is not necessarily a commentary on the State’s embrace of homosexuality, either. It shines a light on the superficiality, the lightness and lack of honour of lands like ours, which are embracing mere superficial, external, freely chosen attributes of people, and making them into the fundamental characteristics of our people.

Let us go back to first principles, and learn how to become the image of God again.



Design Jason Powell, 2020.

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