Sunday, February 28, 2010

Purim Thoughts

One of the Purim traditions is wearing masks and costumes, being disguised. Many religions and regions have similar customs: fools' day, tribal dances, Venice, Rio, Mardi Gras, any theater play, and even the Hamas terrorist killing in Dubai.

Now why would we want to be someone else? Why pretending? It's fun, it's a show, but there must be some root cause. Don't know much about tribal dances and African or Polynesian masks, so my take is probably a Western one. We want to be someone else because:
a. We are unhappy being what we are ('If I were a rich man...')
b. We want to do something unaccepted by society
c. We make a living out of it
d. A combination of the above.

I believe religions and early states allowed masquerades as a safety valve for [oppressed] masses. 364 days you do what religion/society prescribes, 1 day you are free to live the dream you cannot fulfill in you daily life.

In fact, we do a little pretending or acting in many mundane situations. We are not behaving the same at work, with our spouses, with our children, with our friends...They all have a different image of us, even though we don't wear a real mask at these encounters, maybe just a virtual one. Our acting was best described by William Shakespeare in his immortal "All the world's a stage" in 'As you Like It':

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

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