One morning they will get out of bed, breakfast, sit with a coffee, pull out a battered script to go over their lines. If they are some way along the road, the script is a prop, a crutch, more for comfort than necessity. If they have the words, have thought about the topography of the play, the motivations, the deviations of spirit they can take that are not upon the page (but round out the character, the mask they are making), then as they raise the teacup they may just pause.
What are they doing? ‘Why do we all love story some much?’ they think.
Every day we slaughter and devour more stories than we do cattle. Rarely in a digital, radio and televisual, computer hitched society, does a day pass in which the citizen doesn’t watch or listen to a narrative full of characters. Alternatively, we read the newspaper, magazine, periodical, book. We gossip. We hear the fragments of autobiography, from friends and strangers, fresh from the press of existence. Some are Dadaist in composition, broken, inchoate, violent in volume or intent, incomprehensible, mysterious, dull, some are full-bodied, full of the muscular arcs and bridges of narrative pathways integrated, formed, written, built, over months or years, amplified into imaginative alleys, streets, cities, planets, peopled, populated with humorous, happy, dark, tragic, ordinary, everyday, playful, archetypal and symbolic characters. All humanity, encompassed, portrayed, captured, nailed down, expanded, ridiculed by the actor, writer, artist, dancer, musician.
In the second, between lip and cup touching, the cosmos of what it is to play a part unzips in the actor’s head. Their past, the player of a hundred parts, spills. And they consider themselves.
Like a yogi, they contemplate the body. Their body. The body of steam rising with the cup in their hand, to their lips. The bodily content of ideas, thoughts, emotion contained within the machine, the body of flesh, the organic matter that they are.
Playing other people has always possessed them, intrigued and entertained them, felt natural. Their nature is to adopt the mask, create personas, figments, imagined creatures. Their nature is to play seriously; the comic parts are the most serious, the tragic playful.
Spend half a life being Jim Carrey and the character of Jim Carrey departs or you could say he arrives, to live the life for the person within or behind, the character of Jim Carrey. Carrey was the actor with a thousand inauthentic faces. He obtained everything he desired, wrote an imaginary cheque to himself, made himself a millionaire before he was a millionaire, was a film star before he was a film star, projected and became the projection, then found himself looking at the screen with the rest of the audience.
Now, Jim Carrey does not exist within a body; he is an idea in the world. The idea of Jim Carrey lives within the minds of millions, loved, hated, impressive and barely visible. He is a ghost, a digital reality, a whisper, a joke in an Italian hotel, as solid as air, as clear as smoke. Jim is now fond of saying ‘I’m not a guy experiencing the world. I’m the world experiencing a guy.’ Attaining everything transforms the content of the world, everything, into nothing. Having it all, one is pressed, crushed out, emptied, made devoid of desire for things, objects, ambitions, nothing holds, everything is released. Once one has exhibited characters, the face solidifies, the person, the will behind the facial muscles, slips out.
We are all the actor without a face, the mask. You and I separate ourselves by the desire for recognition by you and I. It is a chain of being, a genetic envelope, which makes of the division of self, the object and the subject, a letter. We send out letter after letter, but they are always returned undelivered. The cell we are within, continually splits. We are the sweaty little man behind the curtain, the Wizard of Oz, as Jim Carrey is found of analogising. The bigger the actor, the bigger the fall, the heavier the realisation. I am you, and you are me, becomes a meaning that feels right, not a mantra for foreign bodies. You become part of a foreign legion, the detached, the damaged and the reforming, the deformed released from criminal practice, the practice of being a person, the art and the social discourse, are alienated.
In a poem, Berthold Brecht wrote that the mask of evil on his wall had veins in its temple, pulsing with effort, what a strain it is to be evil he said. But the effort is universal; it is the pain of evil which makes the veins stand out so much. C.S.Lewis says somewhere in ‘Mere Christianity’ that the proto-Christian cannot begin on the path to enlightenment, cannot lose the burden of this life, until they recognise the guilt they have within. Only when you see that you are sick will you hear what the doctor is saying.
But our dis-ease is not of our making. It is circumstantial, existential. The Manichean may be right; there is no light without the dark. And we may be both dark and light. But neither is a chosen state. We are presented with masks to choose from, and we can choose which mask to wear, and this is a becoming, a choice, but the void of being is not a choice, a decision is not made to change it. The mask of sickness like all masks is an illusion, not a human fate.
Attainment of all one’s dreams, leaves one without dreams. The illusion and death of identity is lost and found in the graveyard of dream.