Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Behind the Mask II by Heather Louise

Masks have always fascinated me, ever since I was a child. I collect them. Not masks like the one above, though. I collect mostly African and Indonesian masks. Ibo spirit masks, Punu and Senoufu masks for harmony and tranquility, Bamana chiwaras for agricultural knowledge or secrets and such. In those cultures the mask has more of a protective or assistive purpose, invoking powerful spirits, ancestors and principles, rather than serving the purpose of concealment. 

Most people think of masks as concealment. I guess we all wear masks in one sense or another. We mask our sorrows, our insecurities, and the trials and tribulations of our day to day life. Lately though, I have to say that I'm unsettled by more than a few instances in which one peers behind the mask and is dismayed to see too much. Too much hatred, too much venom, or just... too much. Within about the past year, it seems like I've had more than my share of finding out that what lies behind that mask is rather Phantom of the Opera-like. I've found people who aren't what they seem in so many ways that it's hard to grasp. In one case I was so pleasantly surprised I can't tell you. But what do you do when you see behind the mask and don't care for what you see? Push back and be glad of your sharper vision of reality? On the one hand there may be that aspect of trust when someone lets you see the foibles and fragility that makes us human. And on the other you can end up with that sudden realization that can only be described by that old truism "all that glitters..." Sometimes I'm disappointed in myself for not seeing more clearly from the beginning, so that I don't get startled anymore.

Because I'm just not there yet.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010


  1. What a very eloquent way to word this disappointment that is so universal to our experience as people who are forced to interact with other human beings on a regular basis. (What? Don't look at me like that.)

    Rather timely post title and topic, too. ;)