Recently there have been reports of the tragic and untimely deaths of a well-known singer and a promising Olympic athlete. By any account, this is sad news, and all condolences go out to family and friends. But the serious aspirant must look into this kind of unhappy event with a wish to read between the lines, to see and realize the underlying story that leads to such tragedies. How is it that anyone with so much talent, fortune, and fame comes to such a sorry end? Here is one answer for your consideration and study:
There is a direct and proportionate relationship between the amount of inconsolable pain we have and our misunderstanding of the purpose of our life here on Earth. There is no other explanation for the virtually endless accounts of how individuals with great fortune of one kind or another — including the adulation of countless people — end up destroying themselves, as well as the lives of those who have loved them. In fact, as evidence suggests, winning recognizable success in this world acts like a grinding stone upon the souls of all those conditioned to believe that the purpose of their lives would be fulfilled through that same success. After all, what does one do when — having come to possess everything hoped for — one still finds oneself empty… even of the hope there might still exist a solution to such growing discontent. Un-answerable despair leads to acts of desperation.
The shock of such stories is that we are predisposed — readily deceived — into believing that the way someone acts (around us) is the same as their actual character. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The reason we believe in any “public performance” is that we are all, to one extent or another, actors on stage. We too believe we are who we pretend to be in any given moment, embrace those who agree to see us as we would be seen, and reject those who challenge our role. In a sense, it’s not too far from the mark to say that many of us have come to believe that being a good performer in life is somehow the same as fulfilling the purpose of life! Here’s the strange logic behind the self-created misery that follows it:
For each successful “performance” we pull off — around others or within ourselves — it feels as though we’ve won — for the moment — what we’ve imagined will make us whole and happy; but the drawback here should be self-evident: not only is it wearisome to walk around having to juggle the masks one needs to wear, but no one knows better than the actor that he or she is not the same as the character being played. Conflict between what is real within us and the role we are playing mounts until the inevitable collapse on stage. In fact, any time we outwardly express a negative state it’s because we can no longer maintain our role of being cool, calm, and in control… the mask has come off!
One of the principal tasks of the true spiritual aspirant is not only to see through the masks of others, but also to see through and remove the many masks he or she wears on a daily basis. It can be rightly said that we judge others not so much because of the masks they wear, but to keep us from seeing what is masked within us by finding fault with them. And yet, as we work to see through these masks, and become aware of the frightened actors beneath them, our compassion (for them) grows instead of our conflict with them.