Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Open Your Eyes

"My theme is memory, that winged host that soared about me one grey morning of war-time.
These memories,which are my life--for we possess nothing certainly except the past--were always with me...
...These memories are the memorials and pledges of the vital hours of a lifetime. These hours of afflatus in the human spirit, the springs of art, are, in their mystery, akin to the epochs of history, when a race which for centuries has lived content, unknown, behind its own frontiers, digging, eating, sleeping, begetting, doing what was requisite for survival and nothing else, will for a generation or two, stupefy the world;...
...The human soul enjoys these rare, classic periods, but, apart from them, we are seldom single or unique; we keep company in this world with a hoard of abastractions and reflections and counterfeits of ourselves--the sensual man, the economic man, the man of reason, the beast, the machine and the sleep-walker, and heaven knows what besides, all in our own image, indistinguishable from ourselves to the outward eye. We get borne along, out of sight in the press, unresisting, till we get the chance to drop behind unnoticed, or to dodge down a side street, pause, breathe freely and take our bearings, or to push ahead, outdistance our shadows, lead them a dance, so that when at length they catch up with us, they look at one another askance, knowing we have a secret we shall never share."
---Charles Ryder, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, p. 225-226, Evelyn Waugh.

The above passages are beautifully written. When I read that, I think to myself, "Why can't I write passages as powerful and moving as that?" There are some parts of this passage that I strongly agree with. For instance, I believe that memories are important. In fact, the greatest fear I have is of someday getting some disease (e.g. Alzeheimers or Parkinsons) that causes me to slowly to be unable to relate to the world, having my memories chained at a place where only I can retrieve them at random moments, and to become trapped in an external cage of idiocy.

I don't believe, however, that "we are seldom single and unique." I believe that each of us a unique person. The crux is that so often we choose to wear masks in which we hide our true selves so that we don't appear single and unique to others. We seem so afraid to be ourselves, so afraid of who we are. We long for others to know us as we are, yet we rarely let others see us as we really are because we believe that they will like and even love the masks we wear better than the real us. If a person doesn't like us because of a particular character we are pretending to be, it doesn't hurt as much. When we do this, we aren't truly living. We are just existing and existing is so much more easy than living. After all, to living causes extreme pain. Living causes us to face things as they really are. Living brings with it a host of problems that we can easily avoid if we just exist.

I don't want to live that way. I don't want to live wearing masks. I've tried very hard to be real. I don't want to be fake. I don't want to just existent. I want to LIVE and to live fully. I want to live deep and suck out the marrow of life. I don't do this all the time. I hate to admit it, but there are times that I put on my mask and, like David Aames in VANILLA SKY, believe that people would prefer to be around a fake me than the real me. When I think of those times it can depress me. However, I do know that those times aren't the majority. I know that even though it is so easy to just exist, I'm usually not just exisiting. I'm doing more living than just exisiting. As difficult as this is, it brings me not only great joy, but happiness as well.

Relax, "open your eyes."

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