The Mask, part 1

I recently viewed, again, the excellent 1959 British film, “Room at the Top,” which stars Laurence Harvey and Simone Signoret, for which Signoret won an Academy Award. The film takes place in Yorkshire, England in the 1940s. Laurence Harvey plays Joe Lampton, a young man of working class background who desires to rise in class status – hence the name of the film. Signoret plays Alice Aisgill, an older woman who is unhappily married. When Joe manages to become involved with the local magnate’s daughter, Susan Brown, her family is displeased with the situation. Joe, also, becomes involved with Alice, with whom he falls in love, and she, with him. However, Joe ultimately decides to marry Susan, whom he does not love, for the social climbing that that marriage will afford him. He will work for Susan’s father. Joe tells Alice that he will not see her again, a requirement that Susan’s father and Susan make of him. Tragedy ensues. I will not disclose the ending of the film, because some may want to view that film, and the ending should be experienced as it unfolds.

With Alice, Joe was happy because he did not need to present a mask. He could simply be who he innately was. The bonds ran deep between Alice and Joe because, in being who they inherently were with one another, they not only connected with depth, but they fell in love with authenticity. Although Joe was fond of Susan, and cared about her, he was not in love with her. His life with her would be one in which he would play out (the mask image) the traditional role of husband and father in order to ensure his standing in the community. He would incorporate the mask within his life, not only professionally, but personally. Alice had told him that the values and direction he was seeking were misguided, and that all he needed to do to find happiness was to be himself. Alice, a woman of depth, was aware that living a mask leaves only feelings of emptiness and unfulfilment. She tried to warn Joe of this, but he did not trust that his being authentic, in the world, could bring him lasting happiness. He trusted, more, society’s external values of wealth and social status to bring him what he – erroneously – thought he most desired. He had betrayed his own soul by the choice he had made, and in so doing, had ensured that some type of brokenness – and, in this case, tragedy – was inevitable.

In my last post, “Being Centered,” I had said that achieving wholeness within individuals would contribute to a collective consciousness of wholeness and enlightenment throughout the world. Wholeness is a result of having the inside of ourselves, or who we truly are, match the outside of ourselves, or who we present ourselves to be. Who we present to the world has been called our “personas,” or our “masks,” by Carl Jung, the world famous psychiatrist.

The quote, below, is from Jung’s book, “Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious” (1935).

“Whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see first of all his own face. Whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation with himself. The mirror does not flatter, it faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely, the face we never show to the world because we cover it with the persona, the mask of the actor. But the mirror lies behind the mask and shows the true face.” 

There is fragmentation, or disharmony, if a person experiences a chasm between who he is, authentically, and who he presents himself to be to the world. Wholeness comes from being able to confront that difference directly, and in developing the confidence to show the real person to the world, without the mask.

How sad to observe some politicians, especially some older politicians, who should have achieved some degree of authenticity and wisdom, change their political positions based primarily upon their constituents’ current thinking, as in questioning the President’s birth place or his religion, or the reality of global climate change. These politicians have chosen to support positions based on the lowest common denominator of public opinion, rather than to lead their constituents to higher levels of consciousness.  One has to question:

Is job status more important than personal authenticity? Is wealth more important? Is any external reward more important?  At what personal cost does one relinquish one’s authenticity? And at what cost to society-at-large?

As Eastern spiritual thought teaches, it is better to look within, not without, for lasting happiness. Then, develop the confidence, and the trust, to let your inner self  become manifest, outwardly, to find spiritual harmony.

Although the sound in the video, below, is louder than I would like, the words of John Daido Loori are well worth hearing. Next week, I will post part 2 of “The Mask.”  Understanding the impact of this subject upon our lives requires more than one posting.
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