One of my earliest memories was being taken to a Chinese opera, and what I remember besides the high-pitched, drawn out notes, and the percussion suspense, were the faces painted like masks.
Throughout my life, I have had an ambiguous stance on masks - the kind that people wear in society. I am more in favour of not wearing masks, but experience has been teaching me otherwise. Once, one of my friends, in preparing to demand an owed paycheck, called the make-up she was wearing, 'war paint'.
There is something to be said about the fixity of the mask. It suspends us above our transience. The fixity of emotions, when portrayed on stage, suddenly become universal, and belong to everyone. It is less important whose face is changed by emotion - the emotion is key.
Rilke wrote about the truly creative person's wish to protect himself from being engulfed in life's flow by holding up a work of art as a mask. Is there a moment when we wish to stand outside ourselves, in this way? To capture our own image, the one seen by the spectator, and wear it on a stage? Because of course, we change with every moment, so the mask is a construct, not ourselves.
Rilke is particularly interesting to me because he struggled with his wish for intimacy and wish for solitude. He wore a mask of intimacy in his letters that enabled him to protect and veil his inner life from those he felt were draining him. What a paradox! A shielding mask of intimacy. The mask is actually armor, for protection.
What I find through my own writing is that it can sometimes understand me better than people do - who view it as a mask, something less valuable than meeting up, or a phone call. While the mask is never the person, it wishes to be representative of the intimacies we all experience. It is a way that a sensitive person prepares to meet the world - not always successfully.
The question is whether such masks afford others catharsis, and are not just selfish. But, no writer can know this in advance: it isn't given to us to know. Writing - art - becomes an act of faith, and hopefully we perform it out of love.
And love of this craft, this quiet room where some of us go to recuperate, requires of us our time and attention - sometimes more, sometimes less. Just like each day requires our attention: some mornings I wonder at how in just one day, the lighting and sky can have changed so dramatically.
The mask is both this piece of sky, and the quiet wall around those moments of experience. The experience, the moments of creation, can be shared with others, but very few people know how to quietly approach, unconditionally. Just like it is an act of faith to approach others when they sit and dream. It takes so much respect and love. There are no masks in those moments, just love, when pretense and passion are irrelevant, when we stand, stationary, like deer in a forest.

Elements: sequins, binder paper, roses: pugly pixel,
lace brush: ln213.

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