Tuesday, July 14, 2020


How strange it is to wake up on a Tuesday morning with the realization that there is nothing normal about the day!

I suppose we have adapted to a new "normality", in which we no longer venture out the door without a mask. In which, when we meet others walking in the opposite direction, we expect them, too, to be masked, as we are, so that we see nothing of the expression on their face. We cannot even know what they "look like." We have arrived at a shared anonymity where we could cross paths even with our closest friends and not know who they are.

Whether we like it or not, we have all been constrained to hide an important part of our self--that part by which others, outside our house, would recognize and know us. We are confronted, instead--and present others--with a presence whose individuality is essentially hidden from us. And it was always precisely the individuality that seems so important to us. Oh, there are clues: the clothes, the hat, the hair; if we are closer than social distancing permits, the eyes. But with the face hidden, masked, we have no more than this fragmentary picture. 

Before, in the unmasked days, we could imagine that we had the whole picture when we met with someone, face to face. We could imagine, unquestioningly for the most part, that we "knew" this other person, this friend, this neighbor, this acquaintance. The mask is a useful reminder that what we thought we knew was always partial; it was easier to allow the mind to deceive itself into believing it had effortlessly filled in all the gaps. Here, it assured us, was the person that we knew. 

The reality, of course, is that what we know of ourselves and others is always partial. For our convenience and comfort, we create a single identity, a single "self" out of the many shifting selves that manifest at different times and in countless different ways, whether within the course of a day--Tuesday, say--or over a lifetime's span. The mask we put on as we go out for our morning walk is a good reminder that we will put on other masks throughout the day, and that others will be wearing theirs. And that not one of those masks should be mistaken for that other comfortable delusion: the "real me."

1 comment:

Old Fart RR said...

Today, your mask will be your identity. Ruby,the quilter that you loved, makes great ones from her stash of quilt fabrics. Pick your identity.