Friday, December 22, 2006

Masks of Gold and Stone (Merry Christmas)

Many of you here use this place as a mask, using that intemperate interface to peek out through orange and blue glasses at personalities represented by letters on a screen. All those characters dashed about, turning people into characters, and, in the brains of the reader, back into people again, at least some of the time.

Even though this place is particularly well-suited to masquerade--there's an infinitude of off-screen changing rooms--there is no shortage of masks in walking life. We show ourselves to our family one way, represent to friends, coworkers another. We show toothy visages to our enemies, and roll our bellies at people we trust, sometimes on faith. Some few show fiery masks of passion: dangerous items, apt to consume the wearer (I also fear they're lonely down beneath--as for me, I prefer to smolder), but most others see only the armor we put before ourselves to protect from the inevitable spears and pricks that people lurk to jam into any chink.

I find them all ill-fitting and cumbersome.

Of course we mask ourselves to ourselves as well, to varying degrees. I'd find it nice to be free to open them all to reveal just me, whatever the hell that is. Even if I think it makes a silly quasi-quantitative model, I know that Keifus, whoever he is, is in truth a multitude of faces, and even if these are, by definition, also false--bullshit upon bullshit upon nothingness--then at least they are form-fitting to whatever it is I might be. As someone who wishes he could write, I find it a satisfying exercise to go spelunking through the wrinkled avenues of my gray matter* for avatars. I'm not too afraid of my darker corners (more disappointed in them, actually), but many of the weaker ones I'd rather not see. For all this, however, there's a small ensemble of legitimate Keifuses with which I identify as me.

Even though this is by nature a place of masks, it's also a place where I let the essential ones shine with their most unfiltered light. So many of you don the things to even walk in the door. I find it a relief to shuck the fucking things off.

Letting me out is all about projecting my reactions on things--my opinions, my thoughts. It's not the same as revealing the facts of my life. I find these a burden too, truth be told. As a rule, I don't talk about my marriage here (partly because doing so is inherently unfair, partly because it's sneaky, partly because I consider it low class, and partly because I'd love my wife to be part of any hypothetical hugfest I'm finally allowed to attend), even if it consumes a great deal of my mental energy. But I'm dying to tell you that it's the heaviest mask I wear: asexual and orthogonal to the grain of my humor. Bulletproof. It weighs a goddamn ton. That you folks tend to find me decent is a total riot.

It's exactly the wrong time to complain about this of course. I'm in the middle of a seasonal lull in the long ice, a midwinter thaw that's as welcome as a desert oasis. But melting has a tendency to let out all those frozen-in flaws and impurities, all at once. (It's how, incidentally, you purify silicon ingots.) Hopefully this post will make those thoughts go away in time.

The masks I wear in front of my kids are closer to my internal selves. But to the tykes, I can't, of course, show all of the inner Keifuses, only the ones they are ready to understand. My work masks are me to an even smaller extent. That me is mostly about business and intellectual thought (although I don't think anyone's fooled by my preferred distractions). I decline to wear my business mask here unless it informs a more universal or relevant experience. I think that posturing my work knowledge only to impress (sorry, Geoff) is pretty unclassy too--there's a fine line. (But on the other hand, those guys in the Fray's explainer are getting checkmarks for showing off, so maybe I'm a fool. I'll live.)

I've got some close friends too that only see my masks. These are the guys I grew up with and I positively cherish their continued company. But there's no denying we grew apart--these fellows have a spark of the intellectual married with a spark of the eternal childish (otherwise we'd never likely have found one another in the first place), but their minds all took different paths than mine over the years. More closed, less honest. Sorry guys.

I've said it before: you jokers--you know who you are--even if those of you who're faking it, are the closest thing I've got to real friends. What you see here is the closest thing to Keifus that I'll admit to, even to myself.

I won't lie to you. My Christmas is going to be wonderful. It's the closest time of the year when I can let it out at home and still be approved of. There will be fabulous food, good wine, terrible family jug-band music, and just a good--no, a great--loving time had by all. It's the best week of the year by a long shot.

I don't know why I find so much in common with you people. I'm hopelessly mundane. I've never done hard drugs, don’t suffer from alcoholism (probably) or other addictions, don't smoke, never had a tumultuous relationship, am boringly straight, never had soul-scrubbing sex, I've figured little of it out, no light shines beatifically from my forehead, don't know the right things to say, have no deviant preferences (but could probably find some if I tried), never been homeless, have no debilitating maladies (except bad knees), no psychological afflictions, I may be melancholy but I'm not clinically anything, never fought in a war, never sacrificed myself for others (except in wimpy moderation for my family), never cheated on my wife, never been divorced, never committed rhetorical sins, had no close loved ones suffer (not that close), never lied in a substantive way, wasn't abused as a child, and, I'm happy to say, have abused no one other than by being my own pathetic self.

But just the same, you people are my brothers, and I love every crazy, fucked-up, lying one of you. Yup, even you. I'll be needing you for the other 51 weeks. Take care.

Merry Christmas.


*This phrase sounds familiar to me: will research to see if I accidentally cribbed it, I promise (Is it an A?)


Artemesia said...

Great essay Keifus,

A Masque for the masked..Santa behind the beard behind the beard. There is a bard!

The hyper-links all Hyperion! At the inside of your onion is a pearl, the Keifus. The avatar of all onions, hyper-shelled, hyper-skinned, elusive. Wary, sincere and direct. Also made me wonder about this world of illusionary communication..where at any moment molting may reveal a totally unexpected being/creature/metamorphose.

Keifus said...

Thanks, Artemesia. I ought to tip my hat to our friend Makbara--some of the seeds of it came from a months-ago conversation we had on the Fray. (I had to research the Yeats poem to even figure him out that time.)

The avatar of onions: ha! thanks, I love it. I'll use it for a nickname if the opportunity presents itself.

obfuscati said...

the avatar of onions! that is a good one.

so how much of it is we get to choose which masks we show to others, and how much of it is others pushing our silly putty selves around so they can see only the parts they want to see?

hjrzjwfi; hajj royal jazz wifi?rhkzte, second try; ra katze?

Keifus said...

It occurs to me that a different one shows itself just about every time I post. (I'm sure I'm fooling myself if I think they're all that different.) But yeah, I usually do make an effort to at least not look dumb.

And I could see the way you illustrate, in fact I think I do already. These people trying hard to fake it, seems likely they're just giving the more obscure voices some air time. I think that's how I've always related to characters in books, let 'em ride on whatever closest internal self-version I have in me. No doubt I relate to real people this way as well.

Question: does it do a disservice to "model" others instead of accept their them-ness? Isn't that what knowing someone means? And is that anyway really any different from how we represent ourselves (what are all those inner masks but different behavioral models of ourselves)? Now I am losing the metaphor, and for the answer you may need to hear a team of cognitive scientists and philosophers argue it out rather than peruse an amateur essay-writer.