Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Masks We Wear

People are often said to have a dual nature, which by itself means little, and the context varies widely. In a very basic way it is true, but duality is just the beginning. In reality our natures are multifaceted.

We act one way with our friends, another way at work, another way with our family, another way with our love interests, and a whole different way completely when alone. Some facets line up more congruously than others, but they all have their discrepancies.

So when we try define ourselves which “self” do we use? Which is the truest self? Or is it bits and pieces from each? I have read more than once that the quality humans find most attractive is symmetry. While that was referring to how we perceive beauty in people, is there a way we can attain more symmetry in our lives?

In truth, all of these parts can be a part of one whole, well grounded, “symmetrical” person whose core is solid and recognizable regardless of which facet is peered through. A lofty and difficult goal to achieve. One which straying from is all too easy when the course changes toward dangerous waters are incremental and sometimes imperceptible.

Continuing on this course, changing masks throughout life to be increasingly different people, wears on an individual. The bigger the differences, the more taxing it is. It comes from the little lies told to make all the pieces seem to fit nicely together; we want to feel like our personality, spanned across our entire lives, is completely congruous with itself. The greater the disparity, the greater the desperation to connect nonexistent dots.

James Ensor Self-Portrait with Masks (1899)

The masks serve purposes, but we can be haunted by them.

In fact, we are best at believing our own lies. Our need for that congruity is so great that despite having functioning memories, we will begin to believe those little lies as they multiply.

The range of these lies is immense. Their power immeasurable in our lives and the lives of those around us. They can make you believe something about someone else to keep your own version of yourself intact in your mind. Within your consciousness that idea or belief about another person becomes fact. How much influence do you have over that person? Maybe they begin to believe the revisionism as well.

This insidious path all begins with a person trying to keep their own record of themselves straight. It’s more common that you might think; it has played out in some way in nearly every relationship of any type.

I speak from what some may consider extreme personal experience—extreme, but not unique. The function or benefit this has served in my life is being made aware of it. We all have to wear different masks at different points in our life; that’s the nature of it. It should be noted that this is not all bad, and not everything need be made to meet up. The challenge in that regard is accepting that fact.

While I do not know if greater congruity in and of itself can create happiness, I know without a doubt that the lack of it can create unhappiness.

Biography of The Beard

Beginning its life as peach fuzz and stray inexplicably long whiskers growing from the face of the adolescent human known as Zachariah, The Beard was suppressed by bladed grooming implements for many years. Though secretly bitter about the Razor Oppression of the early 2000’s, The Beard’s public position is that time period was its incubation.

Eventually opportunity struck when Zach began work at a lumber yard in his 18th year. With the approach of winter The Razor began to lose power over the human, who began to feel the allure of the warmth provided by a more bewhiskered visage.

The Beard celebrated in untamed glory, believing itself finally freed from a shaven existence. Sadly salvation was not quite at hand—yet.

The Beard and the human grew close over the winter, making the impending massacre all the more difficult to bear. The coming of spring also signaled the coming of The Razor. The Beard was hurt and betrayed, pieces of itself severed and thrown away like refuse. But all was not lost.

The Beard was disfigured; so greatly diminished from the form that provided protection for the human against the harsh winter cold. Peering down into the trash The Beard mourned for its detached appendages. But The Beard lived on, a little further from glory than before the maiming, it survived as a goatee.

Surviving is not thriving, but The Beard did the best it could to make it through those dark times. The small growth it was allowed was more a cruelty than anything else, allowing only a glimpse of what potential dwelt within those hair follicles.

No beard can stay angry forever, and for the next few years The Beard settled into its pedestrian life as a goatee. It was not until the human experienced some strife of his own that The Beard finally found its time to shine. Beginning first as a five o’clock shadow, those rebellious bristles quickly seized the moment—this chance was not going to be taken for granted.

Springing forth glorious, red, and resplendent, The Beard had grown up.

A great partnership was formed.

A great partnership was formed.

It proceeded to make itself indispensable, uplifting the human; subsequently forming the most beneficial of symbiotic relationships. Together the duo was greater than either had imagined possible.

The beard grew and so did the power shared with the human.

Bearded Glory

Bearded glory.

Today The Beard has largely forgiven the human for his transgressions, and is working through its xyrophobia.

Rapturebating: Romantic Emotions toward Dystopian Notions

A stale silence only broken by a soft breeze carrying the repugnant sweet smell of decay.
Crumbling dwellings with boarded windows—each the site of one family’s personal horror story.
Derelict vehicles—once prized possessions—are abandoned neatly in rows; at least the ones that do not serve as metal and plastic tombs.
The pain deep in your stomach, so strong it radiates through your body in waves. Your last meal feels as if from a different life; the next one? You do not know if it exists.
Your exhausted, shuffling footsteps scrape across the broken pavement; the echo is deafening.
Trinity Nuclear Bomb

Rapturebation intensifies.

Horror?

Imagery like the examples above have become mainstays in modern media—indicative of a society collectively obsessed with an apocalyptic future. Oppressive governments necessitating a monumental revolution, an uncontrollable disease wiping out 80% of the population, massive weather change making Earth uninhabitable, alien occupation, a zombie apocalypse, the flavor does not matter; mass strife is all that is needed to capture imaginations.

Simply turn on the TV or walk into a bookstore and you will find the topic is pervasive. Think you can get away from it? Check your social media feeds, call a friend, open your eyes and there it is, unmistakable. Just a contemporary craze? A modern mania?

“Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common.” -circa 2800 BCE, Assyrian Tablet

Not quite the dawn of human civilization, but it would not be too far a stretch to suggest that since its inception men have been predicting the downfall of their respective societies.

Or Fantasy?

Not a new phenomenon, but undeniably the fervor is increasing. No longer strictly the realm of philosophers and priests, apocalyptic prognostication is firmly entrenched in pop culture. But why? Could such a scenario be truly near? Well, of course, it could be, but as it stands Homo Sapiens live in greater collective ease and comfort than ever before. Today’s average lower-middle class proletariat experiences a level of convenience beyond that of kings and emperors past. A true struggle to survive as our ancestors knew it is further away than ever in our history and yet we are enthralled with the proposition of being locked in protracted contest for our lives.

Correlation? Or perhaps we have causation.

At first glance it would be easy to draw the conclusion that modern man’s obsession is just a manifestation of fear. Danger being the void which cannot be turned away from. Or fearing the prospect of losing all that has been attained, collected—brought low by the loss of all of the carefully acquired merchandise and comforts. Why not dread this when everyone has so much further to fall than before?

Yes, fear would make sense, except…

Fear is not the primary emotion present. Craving more than craven is my observation, though if being precise I would describe it as Sehnsucht; if only there was an English equivalent.

Perhaps doomsday prepper’s behaviors could be construed as fearful, but I contend that they are just the most vigorous rapturebators. Indeed, no other group of people is more invested in the occurrence of apocalyptic conditions. More than just validation, in a SHTF scenario many will have attained their ideal lifestyle.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

Ultimately these are not nightmares, but fantasies.

Reality.

Whenever enough share a dream there will in time exist a market to exploit and profit from it. Where the arts create expressions of the dream (generally not without the bottom line in mind of course), news organizations are the peddlers of a counterfeit brand; an illusion that can easily feel real when the population’s collective selection bias desires it so. This has been exacerbated by the advent of social media where each violent act sensationalized by the news causes an outbreak of furious rapturebation; subsequently the reaction is news to also be sensationalized causing a circle-jerking epidemic.

We humans may enjoy our lives of extreme luxury where worry has become a hobby and we can spend time speculating on the nature of the new and astounding conveniences advancing technology will provide, but we were not made to have it easy. We have been made to struggle, and it has ever been our constant companion. A true friend to our species, pushing us to achieve more, climb higher, build bigger, to challenge ourselves and each other.

Humanity yearns for strife even as more of the population becomes complacent, living vicariously through surrogate sources of mortal conflict. However, even absent an armageddon, we are not through struggling because there will always be those who cannot say that enough has been done.

Just remember that it is okay to rapturebate, but don’t let a real worthwhile struggle pass you by.

Bearded Beginning: the Obligatory First Post

One post must be the first.

The common practice when starting a blog is to create your First Post, in which the the blog is outlined; primarily why it is being written, and what to expect from it in the future. Mostly lies of course; though perhaps not all lies when first told as they are backed by good intentions— as so many of the best lies are!

So then if I do not intend to lie to you, what should I include when carrying out this compulsory tradition? Well, let’s just go down the list. Some bullet points if you will.

  • Many people when writing a blog make the proclamation that there will be no bullshit. I do not make this claim, for bullshit there will be.
  • A strict posting schedule is often promised, usually along the lines of three posts per week, maybe more for the foolishly “ambitious”. I feel no need to make myself accountable in such a way.
  • Commonly the subject matter that will be covered is outlined. I won’t be doing this either. Except to say that beards will be relevant, as will other things that I like.
  • Those that may eventually be offended: conservatives, atheists, democrats, republicans, men, women, liberals, 49er’s fans, christians, tea partiers, occupiers, communists, capitalists, catholics, “men” without beards, gays, straights, homophobes, xenophobes, xenophiles, and of course any pogonophobes.
  • If you do happen to find yourself offended, double check for humor; there may have been an attempt at it.
  • Still offended? Stop taking yourself so seriously.

Well there you have it: actual bullet points. That just came out of nowhere— surprised me even!

Most of the common tropes aside, the truly important part of the First Post is the “why”. Why sit down at a keyboard with the belief that my ideas and opinions are interesting enough to share with others in a format longer than a Facebook post? Well, first of all, Facebook is a time vortex and hardly worth the creative effort. Secondly, my words become Facebook’s, lost in a torrential re-posting of cat pictures and disingenuous relationship advice. Above all I am intrigued by the proposition of taking ownership of my words in a more permanent way.

It is all too easy to select a nom de plume and be a keyboard radical, though in general I believe I have represented myself digitally as I would otherwise. I have never felt the need to pretend to be somebody else behind a computer screen; most who know me also know that I am too fond of my bearded self for that. Indeed, rarely (perhaps only once) have I even taken a screen name other than some configuration of my real name. Regardless, it takes a small measure of courage to bind both personas together into a single entity, publicly exposing myself and my thoughts equally.

Getting a bit serious? I have been accused of having a flair for the dramatic— an accusation I have not denied.

Controversy is not my aim, but If I ruffle a few feathers along the way and spark a debate or two, well— all the better.

Plus I need to give a good home to all of my cat pictures.

Cat in a box in a box.

Cat in a box in a box.