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In general, most people boast of the level of honesty with which they deal in life and before others, arguing that they try to be all the time as they really are, without masks or appearances. Ergo, in today’s western world the genuine or diaphanous being is a positive value of personality, seeing on the contrary the mystery or the occult as negative things.
World-scenario / Human-actor
However, this same vision doesn´t seem to run through the collective imaginary, where there have always been voices, both from Psychology and from Art, that point out how in the individual there is a being, that only he knows, and sometimes not even him, and another personality or mask, which is the one that is shown to the world, built on the basis of values or patterns, that the person knows will help him fit into that universe he wants or must remain in: the appearance given to others.
In this sense, there are several examples. On the one hand, we have the work of William Shakespeare, Como gustéis, written in 1599, where one can read textually one of the verses that have been most used to illustrate how man chooses to assume a personality before others. In his case, Shakespeare compares this situation with acting, seeing the human being as an actor who plays a role, life being his stage:
The world is a stage,
and all men and women are mere actors,
have their exits and their entrances;
and one man can play many roles.
Another author who can serve as an example of this vision of the world as a staging, where the man is a mere actor, who represents a character, or even several, depending on the appearances he is taking as his life is presenting opportunities or need, is the Baroque author Calderón de la Barca, who in his play The theater of the world (1630) exposed in one of his verses:
Come, mortals, come
to adorn each of you
for you to represent
in the Theater of the World!
Nevertheless, this literary vision of the human being as a theatrical representation on a stage can not only be considered as an image that crosses part of the Renaissance and Baroque, but can also be found in Modernism, an example of this is the poem Reír Llorando (1891) by the Mexican poet Juan de Dios Pesa, which reads the following in one of its texts:
The carnival of the world deceives so much,
that lives are short masks;
here we learn to laugh with tears
and also to cry with laughter.
However, one should not understand this mask or theatrical character that the human assumes –according to Literature- to insert himself into the world as something totally alien to his own essence. In fact, there are authors who believe that the person is a mask, a representation in itself, with perhaps more than one face, but without another face being discovered beneath it. An important example of this vision is the thought of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, who in his poem Tabaquería (1928) shows the following in a forceful verse:
When I wanted to take off my mask,
he had it glued to his face.
Examples of quotes about appearance
But these verses aren´t the only examples that can be quoted of the notion of a dichotomous man, who on the one hand has a “truth” that only he – or very few know – and a personality that is the one with which he confronts the world. In this way, on Appearance, several quotes can be found, both in Literature and in popular wisdom, where opinions range from justifying the existence of this mask-appearance, to condemning it and advocating the real essence. Some of the many examples that exist would be the following:
Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)
Few see what we are, but everyone sees what we look like.
Perhaps one of the most recognized voices regarding the concept of Appearance, and its difference with respect to “what we really are” is Niccolò Machiavelli, who in his work The Prince (1513) uses phrases of this type to illustrate to the ruler how he should handle himself before the people, to maintain power, showing a specific face, that would make his subjects believe that they had the best ruler, even if his true personality or essence was another.
Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)
In what we seem, we all have a judge; in what we are, no one judges us.
Perhaps the reason why appearance is important for advancing in certain settings is in this phrase by the German poet and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, who demonstrates how appearance is what everyone sees. Likewise, this German writer lets us glimpse another important aspect that could have the awareness of appearance and reality, and is the freedom granted by the second, because being unknown to everyone, would allow the individual to be as he really is, without having to change his essence in line with the opinions of others.
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
There are many people in the world, but there are still more faces, because each one has several.
On the other hand, this twentieth-century Austrian poet puts the accent on another aspect of appearance: that although all individuals have one essence, they can actually assume different faces. Therefore, many faces can be found for each person, which would make that there are always more faces than beings in the world, because as the baroque poets said, the world would be a catwalk through which men parade playing different roles.
J.J.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)
Not all that is gold shines, not all wandering people are lost.
In addition to warning and highlighting the existence of an appearance and a truth within each human being, some writers have also wanted to raise their voice on the importance of not being deceived by appearances, that is, to take advantage of the knowledge of the perennial duality that exists between what is and what is seen, so as not to judge something only by its appearance.
In this way, the British writer J.J.R. Tolkien warns that one must always be aware that appearance doesn´t always describe the entity, and that this isn´t necessarily in the negative sense, since there are also occasions when the good doesn´t seem so good, with intuition and attention being the necessary elements to discern the difference.
Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600 – 1681)
We pretend to be what we are; let’s be what we pretend.
Although wisdom has assumed as an inevitable fact the human duality between appearance and truth, it doesn´t mean that its same pointers don´t notice the need for both not to be schizoidly opposed, since in truth appearance and reality should not be opposed, that is, the individual should not be the opposite pole of what he shows to the world.
In this regard, we can take as an example this phrase of Calderón de la Barca, who urged to assume that man always pretends before his fellow men a personality, which of course almost always tends to be the best, to be accepted. Beyond this being an appearance, every individual should then try to resemble what he shows to the world, in order to continue his way to become a better person.
Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
At the age of twenty all have the face that God has given them; at the age of forty the face that life has given them and at the age of sixty the face that they deserve.
Likewise, one of the topics that some authors have also addressed about appearance is that it isn´t only formed through the will of the individual on what he wants to show the world, but it also becomes a soft surface where life is printing the reliefs and valleys, corresponding to the way of acting and managing life.
Therefore, paraphrasing the sentence of this twentieth-century German writer and philosopher, no matter how much effort an individual makes, his appearance will be forged as he has behaved in life, ending it with the appearance he has earned, according to what he has done in his walk.
François de La Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680)
We are so accustomed to dressing up for others that we end up dressing up for ourselves.
While most Western thinkers of all time have pointed out the importance of understanding the duality inherent in the human, who has an appearance and a truth, while others indicate the need to resemble that image that appears, there are others, such as this 17th century French writer, who pointed out the situation that can occur due to so much appearing, because -according to his optics- there comes a moment in which the individual knows his appearance more than his reality, which undoubtedly can become a situation of disorientation or ignorance of one’s own personality, so one must be aware of the limits between each of the parts that make up the individual: what it is and what it seems to be.
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October 29, 2019
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