Friday, March 8, 2013

identity and safety

You ask me how I became a madman.  It happened thus:  One day, long before many gods were born,  I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen, - the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives, - I ran mask-less through the crowded streets shouting, "Thieves, thieves, and cursed thieves."

Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.

And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, "He is a madman."  I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time.  For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more.  And as if in a trance I cried, "Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks."

Thus I became a madman.

And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness;  the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.

But let me not be too proud of my safety.  Even a Thief in jail is safe from another thief.

~ Kahlil Gibran
from The Madman his Parables and Poems
art by Leonardo da Vinci


jacquin said...

I am intrigued as to who the thieves are; the awakening from a deep sleep I get, but that thieves stoles the masks rather than the madman casting them aside gives me pause. Who would steal our masks? And why?For their own ends or are they some kind of benevolent terrorist?

Dean Keller said...

Hi jacquin,

I ask myself, what steals away at my identities? What chips away and pokes holes in the faces I put forth to others. For me,if I speak honestly, it's just the circumstances life presents. I can and do decide to ignore what I see, and keep pretending at times but if I step back a little, enough to just observe for a moment, I begin to see how I cling to certain ideas about myself without regard to other motivations and impulses. For me, observation tends to dissolve identities.

What Gibran meant I don't know but I find it useful when I turn it inward.


jacquin said...

But where do these ideas come from? The basis of identity is the image others reflect back to us: what they see, what they hold us to. If we choose to comply, is it really enslaving? Perhaps it is not wise to choose loneliness over connection, or independence over community. I ask myself whether it's right to champion my integrity and honesty if it costs me (the opportunity to develop) grace and humility. I really don't know. In community we all own a little bit of each other; it is the rough sandpaper of community that wears down our sharp edges.

Dean Keller said...

ah, great analogy, and such beauty and pain in that process. It seems you've captured a bit of the thievery in your sandpaper and a bit of the sun kissed face in your appreciation of grace and humility. Nothing wrong with identities as such, they only seem to be confining if you believe they are real. But, how often do we look at our selves or one another, while comparing to a defining image in our minds? The very definitions separate us from the wholeness of ourselves, each other, and from the reality of the moment. Thus, 'freedom from being understood,' becomes freedom from being continually defined by comparison to some image of beauty or intelligence or honesty. As opposed to the lack of judgement within the love of being truly seen, known 'nakedly'in that moment.