The Journey with Joan Ball

The Journey with Joan Ball

Behind the Mask: Is There a True Self?

This poem has been haunting me lately…

No one lives his life.

Disguised since childhood, haphazardly assembled from voices and fears and little pleasures,

we come of age as masks. Our true face never speaks.

Somewhere there must be storehouses where all these lives are laid away like suits of armor or old carriages or clothes hanging limply on walls.

Maybe all paths lead there, to the repository of unlived things.


–Rainer Maria Rilke

I’m less struck by Rilke’s suggestion that we come of age hiding behind masks. It is a common thought that has been discussed in many contexts. It is the thought that the life that could be lived by our truest selves might exist somewhere…that our paths might lead there…that is compelling. What do you think of Rilke’s words? Do our true faces never speak? And what of this repository of unlived things?

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