Everyone wears masks at Halloween, but some masks should be left unworn forever.
Come Halloween, everyone begins putting on masks and heavy makeup, wearing costumes and asking strangers for candy.
The early celebrators of Halloween relied on the masks they wore on All Hallow’s Eve. They took them very seriously, and rightly so. After all, the masks protected them from demons, evil spirits and, in some cases, angry gods.
Looking back, that seems ridiculous. A mask to protect from the forces of darkness? Sure, that’ll work.
It’s easy to say those beliefs are ludicrous, but they aren’t. Not to most of us, anyway, because we’ve been adhering to that kind of thinking ever since.
Everyone wears a mask every day. We tell ourselves the masks protect us, that they are necessary to keep us safe.
Unlike the hideous masks of Halloween, these masks are pretty, not ugly. They’re prim, not wild. They’re perfect, not horrible laboratory experiments gone wrong. We hide what we think is ugly about ourselves beneath a mask of social perfection.
We censor ourselves, leaving out the small details and unique characteristics that define us. We put on a mask we think will make people like us, value us and accept us.
We’ve all known those socially awkward or inept people who don’t wear masks. They walk around naked and they are often scorned for it. We learn from their mistakes and carefully cultivate a mask to make ourselves acceptable and to make our personalities politically or socially correct.
We practice using our mask, and if we are rejected, hurt or abandoned, we tell ourselves it’s because we let the mask slip and our ugly selves showed through.
While Halloween masks are made out of plastic, rubber or hair, our social masks are made out of one thing: fear.
It’s fear that forces us to see life through the dim holes of our masks. It is fear that keeps us from taking bold steps to improve our lives. It is fear that makes us cower in our inner darkness, afraid to come into the light.
Why is this fear so powerful? What are we so afraid of?
Partly, we’re afraid of rejection. Rejection is painful, after all. Being rejected hurts us, invalidates us and makes us feel small, weak and unimportant.
Throughout history, we see that loners don’t last. If you were rejected by society in the hunter-gatherer days, you would die. It’s that simple.
Rejection used to be a death sentence, and it still feels like one.
It’s because of the fear of rejection that we cripple ourselves and hide our real selves away in the darkness.
Marianne Williamson said it is our light, and not our darkness that most frightens us, and she is right.
Some people, when they finally throw down their masks and release their full potential, are bright, confident and powerful individuals.
Others, who still go about masked, are intimidated by their power and freedom, gripped by jealousy and eager to make the enlightened individuals pay for their social transgression. After all, they took off their masks. You’re not supposed to do that, after all. No one else does, so they certainly can’t.
Those embittered and jealous entities are found everywhere in history, trying desperately to stifle progress and kill the dreams that would expand and change their worlds forever.
It was seen in the American Revolution, when foreign nations and colonial loyalists laughed at and scorned the idea of a self-governed people.
It was seen when Galileo claimed the Earth went around the sun and was charged with heresy.
It was seen when Martin Luther King Jr. told the world about his dream and was subsequently assassinated.
All of these are examples of the dangers of removing your mask—people will laugh at you. They’ll accuse you. They’ll hurt you. Some will argue the cost of freedom is not worth the benefits.
However, if you think carefully, you will note that all of these daring, mask-less individuals succeeded in the end.
Today we live in the freest country in the world—an economic powerhouse and a military stronghold.
Today, heliocentrism has been proven and is taught around the world.
Today, blacks and whites live as neighbors and friends and enjoy equal rights. For many, the election of a black president was the ultimate realization of King’s dream.
While it is scary to take off your mask and admit your hopes and dreams, it is necessary.
All the technology and freedom we currently enjoy happened because people took off their masks and were too stubborn to put them back on again.
Trust yourself enough to face the world wearing your own face, with your own dreams and aspirations and not the bland, uniform and acceptable faces society promotes.
This Halloween, enjoy your mask, but don’t forget you’re wearing it. Once you’re done trick-or-treating, take off the masks—all of them.