Feast of Masks

Feast of Masks

For Sandi Cohen, who asks difficult questions

We ask
What is the mask you wear?
What is the mask I wear,
What is the mask we show ,
Only each to herself.
The scholar said,
We never show our face
To another
Only some mask
We hide behind illusions
Another scholar quips
We do not even show
Our faces to ourselves
Inner masks and outer.

I contemplate
What is my mask
What is this face I show
The world
My friends

I ask
Are we all really so dishonest
To each other
To our friends
To ourselves?

Consider the gem
Shining in the light
We see
One facet
One face
Is the gem deceiving us?
It is true
We do not see the whole gem
Only this facet
Or that
But surely it is truly the gem we see
Merely not all of it.

Within our skins
A parliament of persons
We are never just one thing
One person
As the gem, we bring forth our different facets
Our different faces
We are always both/and
How impoverished to be merely either/or

The mystics
With their tree of aspects
Are just as anthropomorphizing
As the rest of us poor idol builders.
We are all Aaron
Pouring gold into the flames of our need
The calf just comes out
Whatever graven image satisfies

In naming our limitations
Of understanding
Understanding The Holy
“We can only see aspects,
Never The Whole
Of The Holy”
We rehearse a description of the sephirot of our souls
Recapitulating the structure of ourselves
As the Image of The Most High
We put forth our constellations of self
In partsufim of presence
A dance of our inner aspects
As the face we present
Present to the world
To ourselves
To Our G-D

Some will say
As our scholar above
We are liars
Because we only present parts
Aspects of our selves
But we show who we really are
Who can encompass a whole
Even of the least of things

Some will insist that we must
We must peel back the layers
The layers of our presentation of self
Remove mask
After mask
After mask
As if
The masks were not also
Truly ourself
But we find,
As when we peel an onion
In the end
After layer
Is removed
All that is left
No Thing
A bit of that which is
Which is
Without end
Ein Sof
The spark of The Infinte
The heart of the Image
From which
We form
Our image
And from
Our image
To our idols.
So, perhaps,
We do not sin too greatly
Standing before the creative fire
Wielding the hammers of our longing and desire

And when we face another
With the face we are wearing
What choices do we have?
Shall we not seek
To put forward the face
The face of our best self?
Do we not wish to smile kindness
To gesture compassion
It is not a mask
It is not a lie
It is who we are
It is the voice
From the chorus of self
That we want to lead
That we want to set
Set the melody,
Call the rhythm
Choose the harmony.

When we see another’s face
And there are blemishes
Recognize the pain
That puts that face forward
Put on a gentle mask
Just because a gem’s flaw
Can be seen through one facet
Does not diminish its
Unique and infinite worth.

So we ask
What is your mask?
What is my mask?
And I answer
We each show our face
But we each have many faces
Each a part of the whole
We strive to put on a good face
Not to deceive
But because we seek to be good.

We cannot encompass in understanding
A grain of sand
A breath of air
A glimmer of light
How then
A human soul
Each of us
Our own
How then
Shall we see
Let alone
The Breath of Creation.

Photo Credit

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