I was reading a book this morning and it reflected that life was like a circus. Well perhaps the author has seen my house on one of our chaotic days, joking aside I thought about the preposition and it had some merit. Now I know the odd thing about circus. I have spent some time travelling with one. Just as a teenager I had an Uncle and Aunt who worked in a circus and I spent a bit of time helping out. My job was to ride in the back of the truck with an Elephant, pretty scary at first but I got used to it soon enough. But I digress. The circus was like a community which I guess it was. If you have ever read Water for Elephants you may have some idea of what I mean.
The players in this little opera were arranged around the central figure of the the Ringmaster, the Great, the Fantastic the Only Captain Mark Anthony (or Tony Ratcliffe to those who knew him.) Tony was old school, an Animal Trainer, Lions, Monkeys,a Chimpanzee, Horses, Dogs and an Elephant. These were the non human attractions then there were the Human ones, the Rope spinners, the slack wire artists, knife throwers and occasional acrobats. There were some people who were more or less permanent in the circus and others whom were transient, they would go between the circus and other types of transient employment. That was the hierarchy more or less as I remember it, I was 14 or 15 at the time and that was a few years ago so time may have clouded my judgement however there are some things that I remember well.
A lot of the people who worked in the Circus were escaping or trying to escape, a bit like Water for Elephants, some were escaping from relationships, some from debts, some just from life, others had a relationship with substances that was not healthy, mainly alcohol although my innocence protected me from knowing what marijuana was at that time and knowing what I do now there was likely to be other drugs apart from alcohol. However the reason people worked in the circus is not at the heart of this matter, what it does relate to is this.
Performers in a circus are just hat they are performers, and most performers wear a mask, sometimes this is a tangible mask like a clowns make up or a hood over the face, other times it is a uniform like the ringmaster or the trapeze artists. Masks enable a different persona, in the circus they portray comedy, pathos a sense of the exotic perhaps. These masks are not there to hide from people but to add authenticity and depth to performance, imagine a couple of people dressed normally kicking each other on the bum in a ring full of sawdust, not even remotely funny, put them in baggy trousers a red nose and a wig with make up aka a clown then it is hilarious (to some people). I have been a clown (yes I know some people think that is my persona) but seriously, paid to perform clown. I was able to be outrageous and do things that would not be normally possible, things that would (or could cause great offence) mimic people, pretend they smell, kiss pretty girls, pinch old ladies bottoms. I have been a Santa Claus as well and that brings another persona as well.
The thing is that masks and costumes elicit responses from ordinary people that they would not consider doing. I was kissed back as a clown, hugged had my bum pinched. As Santa Claus i was propositioned (hey Santa what are you doing tonight) kissed pretty girls sit on your knee, Older women make outrageous suggestions as to what kind of toy they want Santa to bring them, as well as my boots under their bed!
So back to masks, we all wear masks at different times, this year I have been constantly wearing a mask, at times to cover the physical pain and at times the emotional pain, the problem with masks is that we can let them slip. No big problem with that except there can be a reason for wearing the mask, for me generally it is to hide things from my children and also to function as a teacher and a colleague. There are people who wear masks for more nefarious reasons, hiding things that need to see the light of day, addictions to gambling, drugs, alcohol and other drugs. People hide their true intentions in relationships in dating, in business. We need some tools to distinguish between masks that matter and those that don’t.
It would be awesome if we could live in a world without masks however I live in the possible and the here and now. I try to cut through masks where I can, and my blog is a part of that. It is interesting some times when I put some really personal stuff out there, as I have mentioned before I don’t get a lot of feedback and comments. I am not sure what that in itself means. However in the end it is up to me.
On this Christmas Eve my wish for you is a New Year where masks do not get in the way of life and love .