“Don’t be fooled by me.
Don’t be fooled by the face I wear.
For I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
Masks that I’m afraid to take off,
and none of them is me.”
Charles C. Finn, from the poem Please Hear What I’m Not Saying
A busy day comes to an end, the stress of earning a living, maintaining relationships, exercising and pursuing that fountain of youth, trying to eat well but feeling guilty for that scrumptious indulgence, and then it approaches, one final waking moment and then we are alone. We are in bed, our eyes are shut, dreams may soon materialize taking us to strange, unforeseen and illogical places, but it is only us. No more masks, no more “being on”, no one to pretend to – no act to play out. We are figuratively and quite possibly literally, blissfully, naked. We hide no more. The rolls, those extra pounds, the blemishes, all those imperfections are now completely exposed once all our masks are removed. Our nighttime slumber is our refuge from the masks. It is our opportunity for rejuvenation IF we have not yet learned how to unmask ourselves during our awakened state.
Think about it, when are we truly ourselves? When are we not trying to impress our co-workers, our boss, our friends, our significant other, our children, our parents, the driver stopped beside us at the traffic light, that gentlemen riding in the elevator with us, the stranger sitting on the plane beside us, or our doctor during that uncomfortable annual physical (well at my age it is uncomfortable)? What they see most often is our outward masked self, and we too, so at times we lose sight of who we truly are.
“My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask,
ever-varying and ever-concealing.
Beneath lies confusion and fear and aloneness.
But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it.” Charles C. Finn
We live in a society that today values Kardashian-esque motifs and in our own way we have succumbed to the counterfeit façade that promotes our own flawed self-identity. It is a trap that seems only escapable by the Great Houdini himself. It wears on us, fatigues us and drains our daily source of vital but limited energy. The voices in our head constantly debate the principle and meaning of life with our soul, our true self but the debate’s victor is still awaiting the seventh and deciding game.
“It’s [love] the only thing that can liberate me from myself,
from my own self-built prison walls,
from the barriers I so painstakingly erect.” Charles C. Finn
The love that I interpret here (which may not be the intention of the author) is the love we have for our own self. I was having dinner with an old friend this week who described himself as love which got me thinking. We are love? Imagine how that changes our perception of who we think we are. I don’t suppose my old buddy realized it, but with that utterance, his masks tumbled down first for him, but also in front of me. I saw this friend like I had never seen him before. I saw his essence. It may have been the most profound utterance I have ever witnessed. It was a special moment in time and indeed a liberating one too – at least for me.
Sleeping naked has its merits, but being awake and naked for all to see is something else all together.
“Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and every woman you meet.” Charles C. Finn
This one is beautifully done Stuart. What a wonderful moment for you and your friend. Be well!
Thank you Karen. I really “felt” this one.
You know, as I was reading through, I was telling myself we need to not only sleep naked, but be awake and walk naked, I didn’t know that would be emphasized on the last paragraph. Your analysis on this thoughtful poem is a great work. This really got me!! great job Stuart!
May, I am honoured. Thank you for showing up here.