“Luke help me take this mask off” – Anakin
“But you’ll die” – Luke Skywalker
“Nothing can stop that now. Just for once let me look on you with my own eyes.” – Anakin
George Orwell wrote “He wears a mask and his face grows to fit it”. Today most of us will be wearing a mask, literally, figuratively or both. In the figurative sense we wear a mask to conceal who we are. Vulnerabilities are seldom put on display. Inner secrets and intentions are kept hidden. Character flaws and shortcoming are concealed, buried and denied. We want people to see the person we want them to see. We do not even want to face ourselves. Eventually we learn to fit the mask we wear. We become that person. It becomes a suit of armor but it also becomes a prison preventing us from being who we are meant to be.
Darth Vader wore a mask to function physically as his injuries suffered on the lava flows of Mustafar were so severe that he required it to breath and speak. The mask also concealed his horrific disfigurement while it became a symbol of tyranny and oppression across the galaxy. Darth Vader all but extinguished the man that once existed but he could not destroy the memory of who he once was. The mask helped conceal his own agony from others. The mask also reinforced his enslavement to the Dark Side.
Kylo Ren wore a mask to hide his true self. Behind that mask was a man who was weak and vulnerable and deeply flawed. Barely a man, Kylo Ren was a child suffering from betrayal and neglect. From a dark place he cast off his former self and taking inspiration from his grandfather, Darth Vader, sought to be like him. Ben Solo had none of the passion, conviction and real suffering that Anakin had had. Kylo Ren was a façade. The mask he wore was a prop used to intimidate others and it failed. Not even a mask could conceal Kylo’s character that had neither virtue or substance.
The Mandalorian warrior was required to wear a helmet to conceal his identity. Their code forbid them from ever removing it in front of others. With the fall of the Mandalore to the Empire, the survivors of the Mandalorian Death Watch scattered across the galaxy and many ended up in the outer rim as Bounty Hunters and Mercenaries. They were self-reliant loners who rarely took bounties alive where it was easier to choose the dead from “dead or alive”. They were ruthless but also disciplined warriors and loyal to one and another and above all to the Mandalorian Code.
“Mando” is the man with no name. A Star Wars gun slinger. The mask gives him a deeper layer of anonymity in a profession where it was best to be on guard, trust few and anonymous. We may not see the Mandalorians face but his actions reveal his true character despite the mask he wears. The mask does not hide Mando as he truly is.
For decades I wore masks. Alcoholics are experts in switching from one persona to the next depending on the situation. Each is a mask that hides true intentions, motivations and character. I could be nice, charming and amicable when it suited me and quickly turn morose, obstinate or belligerent when it didn’t. I would be your best friend if you bought me a drink and then walk past you in the street with barely a glance the next day. In an evening I would convince myself and others that I was somebody who had and would do great things. I would pretend to be anyone but who I was and would lie even when there was no need of it. My alcoholic personality served as a disguise and eventually I came to fit the masks I wore. The masks we make for ourselves and hide behind conceal our pain and the dark truth of who and what we are.
In recovery I learned to remove the masks. I started to drop them. Through inventory and amends the layers of deceit and lies begin to wash away and masks fell as I revealed myself to others and to a Higher Power. I found I no longer had need of a mask. Without any fear of loss or death, the need for masks falls away. You cannot hide who you are from the Divine.
These days I meet people wearing masks when I go out. Their masks are literal and figurative. Masks are not mandatory where I live in these strange times but some people choose to wear them. Whether they are protecting themselves from others, or trying to protect others from themselves or wear the mask for comfort from fear or because of social pressure, I am unsure. People seem to act differently around others when they wear them. Not long ago seeing people wearing surgical masks would’ve seemed strange. Now it is seems completely normal. Yet people have always worn masks and it would seem strange if they didn’t. Imagine if they didn’t…
People wear masks and their faces grow to fit them. Eventually they become who they are pretending to be. The mask can still come off. Anakin removed his mask as he lay dying and revealed in his last moments his true self. His scarred face betrayed love and final redemption to his son. Kylo Ren desperate to become more powerful cast aside his mask revealing a fragile and deeply conflicted child that could only be pitied. The Bounty Hunter Mando removed his mask and revealed just Mando.
I do not wear a mask either literal or figurative. I see no point in wearing them. Recovery has taught me to be true to my principles whether they agree with others or not. This includes being authentic in every way. Removing your mask means revealing yourself and putting character and your vulnerabilities on display. It is being honest with yourself and others. Unless you are a Mandalorian true to the code, cast aside your mask and show your face. This is who you are. This is the way.