We Wear the Mask
WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Two years ago, I worked with someone who greeted me daily with, “I am trying to feel you out.” I thought it was hilarious that this person spent so much time trying to figure out the type of person that I am. We live in a world where people are constantly being judged. Despite countless efforts by many promoting originality and being one’s self, many people continue to define others by what they say and do. Our skin color, size, and even hair color are used to categorize individuals.
As mentioned in my first blog post, I am an educator. I began my teaching career many years ago working with students with an emotional-behavioral disability. They are the students who are unable to control their emotions and many times lack the social skills needed to be around large groups of people. As terrible as this may sound, they were the students most school personnel didn’t want in their building out of fear. I worked with a group of young men on a one-on-one basis to help them deal with their anger and behavior and also encouraged the students to develop their own solutions to problems. I tried to find creative ways to improve the lives of these young adults but they struggled to deal with their emotions and feared how people perceived them. It is because of those fears and judgement by others, many of my students lived behind a mask. Sometimes I would look and compare them to Anakin Skywalker, who also lived and hid behind a mask. But, what happens when the mask comes off?
Before becoming the of the most powerful, cunning, strategic, and hated villain in the galaxy, he was Anakin. While many people feel contempt towards Anakin/Vader, I can’t help but feel solicitude towards him. By now, those of you reading this have figured out that Anakin/Darth Vader is one of my favorite characters. When I look at him, I see a man with a tortured soul who hides behind years of the pain and challenges he had to face throughout his life. I see “him,” Anakin Skywalker, and I look beyond the mask.
Born to an enslaved mother, which in turn made Anakin a slave until his freedom was purchased by Qui-Gon Jinn , a Jedi who believed he would bring balance to the Force. To become a Jedi, one must be able to control their emotions. This is one area that Anakin grappled with constantly. Believing he was the “Chosen One,” Anakin had to leave his mother, the first woman he ever loved to become a Jedi. As a young man, he had to suppress the memory and his attachment to the person who gave him life.
As he got older, like most heterosexual young men, he was attracted to the opposite sex. He fell in love with Padme, a woman he could be himself with and would later marry. He shared his innermost feelings of joy, passion and even nightmares with her. Unfortunately, a Jedi can’t be married and Anakin had to live a life of secrecy. While serving as a Jedi, he was unable to share his love for Padme. Anakin had to live a life behind a mask.
Unfortunately for Anakin, when the mask came off, he was already at a point of no return. He committed unspeakable acts towards those he cared for the most. Unable to no longer control his emotions and living behind his invisible mask, he gave in to the power of the dark side.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise,
We sing, but of the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
Unlike Anakin, my students were in an environment where they learned how to control their emotions when the mask came off. They learned how to assess their fears and perceptual reasoning about the things around them and acted accordingly. This was no easy task. It takes years and, often, groups of individuals to help these young adults achieve their goals.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that many people walk around hiding behind a mask. After all, everyone acts differently based on where they are. Wearing a mask may not always be awful. But the big question is this, what happens when you stop hiding behind the mask?
This IS the Podcast you’re looking for!
Poetry selections taken from “We Wear the Mask” by Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906).Powered by Sidelines