text and photo © Jonathan Zap
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;” — T.S. Eliot
You are not your persona or social self. We all put on social masks and in some circumstances they are quite necessary. But they are not who you are. If some old masks no longer serve, let them melt away.
Sometimes we put on masks to meet the outer world — we act differently at work or school than with intimate friends, adopt specialized demeanors when interacting with police or on a job interview. But some people — some police, for example, or people forever trying to be cool — come to identify with the persona. They believe they are the persona, the uniform or cool clothes wear them, and authenticity and their essence become ever more submerged. I once saw a magazine ad that showed a generic square-jawed male model looking very self-satisfied. The caption of the ad was something like this: “Underneath his Yves St. Laurent shirt, his Pierre Cardin jacket, his Porsche designer sun glasses, John Lance wears Brut.” In other words, under his exoskeleton of brand names is just one more brand name. An ad for Seiko watches still currently in print says (approximately), “It’s not your clothes that say the most about who you are, not your shoes, not the car you drive, not the music you listen to. It’s your watch.” Of course it is your self that says the most about who you are, not the brand name consumer goods, but the Babylon Matrix wants you focused on surfaces, appearances and objects. It wants you to believe that buying stuff is the key to forming an identity. Cars are especially marketed as ways to buy an identity.
I was once walking down the street at lunchtime on a weekday and saw one carefully groomed yuppie after another passing me. There was not a hair out of place, and they seemed dressed up to look just like ads they had seen in glossy magazines. In my mind’s eye I saw that their energy had formed a kind of exoskeleton, their identification with persona, clothing, accessories and bodily appearance had formed them into a kind of full body helmet, polished, blow dried, glazed with subtle cosmetics, while somewhere the self, a shriveled, malnourished, somnambulant embryo lay dormant.
Molt the persona that has become attached to you through identification and feel yourself grow larger. Don’t wait, like Darth Vader, for the exoskeleton to fall away on your deathbed.
It is not your brand names, not your clothes, not your car, not your hair, not your weight; it is you that says the most about who you are.
“Every calling or profession has its own characteristic persona. It is easy to study these things nowadays, when the photographs of public personalities so frequently appear in the press. A certain kind of behaviour is forced on them by the world, and professional people endeavour to come up to these expectations. Only, the danger is that they become identical with their personas-the professor with his text-book, the tenor with his voice. Then the damage is done; henceforth he lives exclusively against the background of his own biography. . . . The garment of Deianeira has grown fast to his skin, and a desperate decision like that of Heracles is needed if he is to tear this Nessus shirt from his body and step into the consuming fire of the flame of immortality, in order to transform himself into what he really is. One could say, with a little exaggeration, that the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is.”
“Concerning Rebirth” (1940). In CW 9, Part I: The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. P.221