masks 3


The face we show the world is usually by design.  I think most people have many different faces that they show to the world depending on the circumstances.  We show happy faces, and sad faces and concerned faces and innocent faces, all by design.  Our faces are our masks.

The first usage of physical masks has been lost in the mists of antiquity.  But what we have discovered is that they were originally used for rituals or for entertainment.  Eventually nefarious people figured out they could use them to disguise who they were.  They could then commit atrocities with impunity.  Unfortunately masks are still used for this purpose today.

The word “mask” originated in England in the 1530s.  Its etymology is as varied as it is uncertain.  The word may be derived from the middle French, through the Italian, Arabic, old French, German, and a pre-Indo-European language.  Basically no one is certain of its origin.  Also, its meaning has been somewhat confused.  At one time it signified a covering to hide but it also has ties to the word buffoon, to ridicule.  But they all seem to have one thing in common: to conceal who we really are.

One can wear a mask or mask their feelings.  Masks protect and they cover.  They conceal and they enhance.  But masks are not always obvious.  Some women wear makeup to enhance their beauty.  Some people are simply very good at concealing what they’re feeling so it doesn’t show on their face.  We wear hats and scarves, clothing becomes our shield.  The world would rather we didn’t walk naked on the streets!  On this I concur!

Mask are not necessarily a bad thing, they are simply a tool that we used to make us feel better and to give us confidence.  I won’t go out into the world without mascara, lipstick and sunglasses.  (I am also fully dressed but I didn’t think that needed to be said.)  This is my mask.  It doesn’t seriously change the way I look but it does enhance the way I feel about myself.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?  How we feel about ourselves is directly related to how we treat other people.

Homo sapiens is a complicated race.  We can speak one thing, think another, feel another and have yet another emotion show on our face.  We can fool and confuse.  We can trick and we can deceive.  We can show the depths of evil and the tenderness of love.  To say that we are two-faced is leaving out a multitude of faces that we have within us.  Sometimes it feels like it’s a symphony or a rock concert.  Our individuality is complex and multifaceted.  That’s what makes us so damn cool!

13 thoughts on “Masks

  1. LindaGHill

    Appropriate that the etymology of the word ‘mask’ can’t be found.
    I often think about what mask I wear. I never wear makeup, I rarely dress in anything but that which is comfortable – I don’t really care what people think of me, and I’m often amused when people treat me as though I’m some kind of sub-species. It happens. Thanks for giving me something to ponder with this great post. 🙂


  2. Melissa Ryan

    Masks are easy to hide behind aren’t they? Sometimes we are not even aware we are wearing one. They feel invisible but are definitely there. Thank you for this post – it is always great to have a good reminder of how we step into the world. It is great to examine what we are hiding behind and try and figure out why.


  3. Tracesofthesoul

    I love how you write and do research on things too! I too wear some make-up “for me” and I think we wear masks in how we behave…the public me, the private me, and the in between among friends. I’m sure my kids would describe me differently than my colleagues…lol



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