Sunday’s Wisdom #126: The Price of Refusing a Mask

“It is better I die as someone I’m proud of than live as someone I despise.”
– Camille O’Connell, The Originals
Season 3, Episode 10, “Ghost of the Mississippi”

A rather heavy subject today.

I was actually thinking of this quote last week, but thought I might set it up a little better talking first about masks. I mean, that is the more common way this applies, because when we simply conform to what everyone else wants of us, we are not being true to who we are. We are being weak instead of being strong, and nobody really likes being weak. It is very easy to hate and shame ourselves for that. But it’s also very frightening to stand up, to stand out. We’re afraid of what might happen if we reveal ourselves. Thing is, to do anything else is to suffer, and suffer terribly.

I wondered which type of mask was the most tragic to be worn, one to make us seem better, worse, or simply more conforming. It occurred to me only later that the type of mask which is truly most tragic to be worn is, simply, the kind that is forced onto us by others.

When something happens where we have to lose, bury, or even kill some part of who we are, we become someone less than we were before. We become empty inside. When someone else forces that mask onto our faces and we are forced to live with it forever, without any promise of relief, they are the ones actively emptying us out.

Wearing a lie over the whole of our lives will leave us hollow and weak, and it is worst of all to wear such a mask involuntarily.

That is the meaning of enslavement: to have your “self” taken away and replaced.

Now, most of us don’t have such a dramatic choice as Camille O’Connell does in this scene. It might distract from my point to explain the particulars, but the emphasis is: she can either stay true to her best self, no matter the consequences, or she can take an easier path and become something less than.

What I wanted to make clear, with my earlier talk on masks, is that sometimes we do have a similar choice, to either “live enslaved” or “die free,” in some fashion. It’s usually something more domestic, thankfully, but, when it’s not metaphorical, when it really is a choice between living and dying, I wanted to make it clear that I don’t mean to judge the people who choose to live. No, I am sad for the burden that such people bear.

It can take a great deal of strength to bear that burden, in a situation I can’t really say I understand. In such circumstances, surviving each day, let alone surviving with hope, can take a strength greater than anything I’ll ever have.

But slavery of either body, mind, or soul is Hell itself.

The emptiness that comes with it, is all-consuming, a darkness that can easily make of us the worst and most pathetic versions of ourselves. That is a hazard which, really, makes death look far less unappealing, even in the more “domestic” examples.

If living means doing something terrible, something that steals our goodness, enslaves our humanity, and puts a mask over our soul… then is “living” really worth that?

Is survival, or anything else, worth becoming a lesser person than we once were?

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