"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How many masks to you have?

The art of African masks intrigues me. They're so honest.
The displays in the UCO Library show so much culture, imagination and spirituality.

But in America we Europeans have submerged such art, considering it primitive. Masks still exist in  some Native American cultures like the Zuni and on the Pacific Coast, cultures which are older than ours and anything but primitive. Maybe we're afraid to be honest about our masks.

The only time we're honest about our masks is around Halloween, when we figure that yes, we can have fun again. But otherwise, we hide our masks, thinking we are fooling people.

Instead we speak of "keeping our guard up," or "not letting our guard down," in our work and personal lives.

Some of our masks are physical--costumes of types of dress, offices, houses, automobiles, makeup, hair styles, jewelry--that we use to help give ourselves identity, to boost our egos to ourselves,  and to perhaps cover up who we really are to  other people. They can be harmless or superficial, and easy sources of humor, or turn into resentment and violence. What are social classes and discrimination but varieties of masks?

Our other masks are more insidious because they are attitudes and behavior--thinking we're more important or smarter or more talented or superior to others,  and hiding personal and family problems. The real problem is that they rarely fool other people--unlike Halloween or African masks--people can see right through the. Instead, our masks fool only ourselves. They become hollow parts of our false selves, grotesque art that deprives us of honesty, imagination and spirituality. It's not by accident that the word "hypocrite" comes from the Greek actors and their masks.

It's ironic and  appropriate that the African mask display is at UCO. University campuses are filled with people wearing masks, especially the faculty, administrative and academic organizations, such as faculty ranks, supposed hierarchy of disciplines and publications and academic "turf"--the ruling principle of higher ed. My Mom would call much of that "putting on airs." One staff member said to me this week, looking me in the eyes, "You've got to admit the faculty has some large egos."

What are your masks?


  1. Great post,

    Don't you think that any organization involving people has a pecking order? We aren't much better off than a pack of dogs I think sometimes.

  2. yes, woof!

    but some are worse than others/

    measured by the number of stupid acronyms they use


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