I love good things in life, so naturally I’m a big fan of Chipotle. If we ain’t talking bowls, I don’t wanna talk. The fresh ingredients, the amiable service, and the fact the extra rice and beans are free (shhh don’t tell anyone). I love it. When I ask my friends if they want to grab lunch together, they do not need to ask where… we just set up a time and day and automatically know to meet at Chipotle (hopefully there’s only one Chipotle in town… or we are off to a good ole fashioned game of Chipotle Roulette). Many times, we eat outside if the weather is nice and the power of a shared meal begins to move us into conversation. It’s all about sharing, except my guacamole, get your chip away.
One time my buddy and I were talking about revisiting our hometowns now that we are a little older and how certain observations occur that went unnoticed before. He began to talk about his hometown. What he liked and disliked. As the conversation developed, his feelings became pinpointed on a perception that, in general, certain groups of people lacked a trait of authenticity. In short, they focus more on performing who they think they are (or who they wish they were), instead of allowing their true selves to shine through in social situations. I agreed that I find this in my own hometown as well. But, also in myself. And everywhere. It seems to be both a societal issue and a personal issue. And perhaps a societal issue because it is a personal issue. We began to talk about the difficulty in being ourselves and accepting vulnerability as a key component in living real lives. CJ Casciotta, in his wonderfully insightful and encouraging book Get Weird: Discover the Surprising Secret to Making a Difference, says:
“If we are ever going to create anything beautiful, lasting, and worthwhile, it’s going to come from who we are when we are stripped of all our striving.”
So easy to get trapped in the unconscious drives to appear put together, successful, popular, wealthy, attractive… etc. All focused upon what other people think about me. All focused upon my reputation. No reputation, no me.
Yet, we struggle. Who do we believe? What motivates us? We get caught up in our striving, performing, and people pleasing. Makes me think of Shakespeare, in his play As You Like It, when he says:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,”.
It references this idea of life as performance and the different masks that we wear. The development we go through, but struggle to let our real selves shine through despite our situations, who we are hanging out with, and what the weather is like outside. All part of our humanity. All part of the journey. Discovering who we are and not wanting to be anyone else. How do we discover this? That’s the beauty and pain of life. No black and white answers. We are all pilgrims. And through our relationship with others (more generally, reality) we come to know ourselves. The true openness to the ‘other’ awakens me to my real self. I am accepted, welcomed, and loved, Just as I am. No longer bound by performance.
During that lunch time, he told me the image coming to his mind that illustrated what he saw in the culture that struggles with living in front of people as their true selves. He said it looks like a masquerade ball. Everyone masked and seemingly enjoying themselves. Yet we have no way of knowing for real, because the truth of their faces is blocked from perception. I went ahead and wrote a poem inspired by this image. This should be pretty good timing with Mardi Gras season being upon us… here it is:
We dance in the ballroom, masked and not known.
Colors, molds, fabrics – varieties of appearances.
Rhythms of predictable music move us in different ways.
Screams hit the yellow walls. The song continues.
No one the same, except the nose.
The large protuberance on each mask – distracting yet alluring.
We continue in our strides; repeating our own constructions.
The night began with guesses; judgements casted as truth. The song continues.
The conductor releases new, dramatic gestures.
Discordance breaks passive tensions – Who messed it up?
Stiff bodies disturbed by difference.
No one dares to follow new rhythms.The song continues.
A sound echoes from ear to ear – distinct and poignant.
Uncertainty felt in the gasps of crowds.
Masks fall from our faces! Smacking the marble floor.
Spots on the wall turn blue. The song continues.
My shattered self is left with one certainty – you.
*Insert baller quote from Helen Keller… what a beast of a human*
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”