I was searching for a line from Rilke's novel when I came across this:
Shakespeare's King Henry IV, Part II, where the former prince has shed his profligate lifestyle to become King Henry V. Visited by his erstwhile drinking companion, Falstaff, the new and mature king says:
Presume not that I am the thing I was;
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turned away my former self (V,v).
People change by virtue of living, and that's an end to it. However, we change rapidly in times of crisis, some of us becoming different in ground rather than simply in colour or taste and such. The very ground of being heaves, and we are as we were not. For a number of us that personal upheaval happened on 9-11-01. For some the ground of being is still shifting. Others float along on the shifting sands. I will not presume that you are who you were. Nor will I presume that as you are you will remain. The upheavals have not ended, and they won't for us till our time is over. Today we assume new roles and duties. Old masks have fallen, and we assume new identities: being that was is now uncovered as being what is and unearthed as us. Like it or not, many of us are who were might never have been. Now you are discovered and you are called.
Rilke in The Journal of Malte Laurids Brigge, (p.71) writes:
"The mouleur, whose shop I pass every day, has hung two masks beside his door. The face of the young drowned woman, a cast of which was taken in the Morgue because it was beautiful, because it smiled, smiled so deceptively, as though it knew. And beneath it, his face, which knows."
That's not the quotation I sought. That's a quotation for those who do not know. Rilke wrote in the same work that "He" is the mask behind which the author lies as person, and the quotation is illustrative because we act so at our peril. We can look at ourselves and see a false image of our being as we are not but might wish were so. We cannot afford such sentimentality any longer. The masks are slipped. We have to accept our faces and face the world honestly as we now are. Our previous masks of over-sensitive poets hanging gently on our fronts is no longer worthy of us.
For most of us the newness of war is discomfiting and alienating. We have lived so long behind masks of Romance and false feeling that to see what we truly are is to look on horror when we do so. We are, from the deeps, now ourselves.
Recently 17 Muslims were arrested in Toronto, Canada on charges related to a conspiracy to murder at random a mass of innocent civilians. To suggest that people are in denial over this occasion is to mouth worthless cliches and to lapse into passivity and smugness. It's not enough to condemn the fools among us. You are not the person you were, and life will not allow you to pretend in good faith. You know the Muslims will kill you in time, and if not you your children. Pretty is a fashion out of date. Ugly is stylish in the season.
So shall the world perceive,
That you have turned away your former self.
We will meet on Thursday evening in the atrium of the Vancouver Public Library from 7-9:00 p.m. to sit and drink coffee and talk about our new lives and our responses to them. It's time to hang up the old masks of denial and dhimmitude and pleasing the p.c. chorus with pretty noises. We talk about jihad, we talk about socialism, we talk about a new covenant for Canada and for free people in free nations. You'll know us because we wear blue kerchiefs and blue scarves. We are the ones you can sit with to discuss the nature of the new unmasked and possibly beautiful.
VPL, 7-9:00 p.m. In the Atrium usually at Blenz.