January 25, 2009

Confessions of the Masks

I went back to England for three weeks and saw some people - groups and individuals - that I hadn't seen for some time, plus I met some new people entirely out of context, no others, places or roles to be influenced by. It was interesting how old patterns remained, and how new ones were so easily established, but only with entirely new people.

For example, there was one friend who I hadn't seen for 11 years. Back then I used to drink a lot, and especially with this guy. Now I know was a little nervous about meeting him again, as there was history and events, and also I'd been traveling and hadn't eaten anything all day. Still, I drank three pints without pausing for breath, and things were much the same as before, albeit overlaid on certain aspects of my more recent default self [better health and posture, less uncertainty about my place in the world, the general palliative effects of recent history and events]. But mainly that newer at-home-alone self was watching, half detached, at the improv performance another part of me was giving, running on sense memories and the cues that this guy was sending out, no doubt also slipping back into an older [i.e. younger] version of himself. If we'd had more time together things would no doubt have settled down to some more nuanced state, but to get the whole thing done in six hours was a shock to the system, an experience of time travel.

The next night I met someone I'd never met before, and remained lucid and ran through all the charming tricks of my current mask. An automatic performance, one that felt no more or less natural than the night before, but overall better, because there was minimal alcohol and no history to either dwell on or consciously avoid. It made me want to go back and meet people I haven't seen since childhood and then test what the automatic feelings and actions would be, but I don't keep in touch with many people from my past, and none from before university.

The next day it all came together, the past and present modes of being , but I ate something wrong, or got too cold, or was given something bad to smoke, and my system rebelled. I had a great time, but everything inside me broke. [Oddly enough, almost exactly the same thing happened in about the same circumstances two nights ago in a KTV. Everything I've ever learned I had to learn the hard way, many times, and this lesson appears to take some time to master]

The point is that there's no real, authentic self inside me. In addition to all the socially constructed masks that I can adopt without even thinking about it, there's the self-conscious self I slip into when alone and thinking about me, me, me. But that's not the last word, no more real than the others, as it evolves stochastically with events inside and outside. There's nothing to lament in this. Having no one self to hold on to makes dying seem trivial [now, but probably not later] - nothing I can pin down will be lost, just things in the minds of others. I'm not there and never was.

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