Sunday, April 5, 2009

Dance with me, baby & living Scaramouche

Since mentioning my childhood, there have been requests to know what I looked like back then. After pouring through virtually thousands of photographs, I have selected a pair to include with this post. At the left, you see me on what purportedly was my first real date. Naturally, I took the young lady dancing. Notice, if you will, please, how intently I stare into the young lady's eyes. They simply melt when I give them that look. Over on the right, we have a photo of Fram the First and Fram Actual practicing for our debut recital at Philharmonic Hall in Oslo, Norway. We looked so much alike back then, I am no longer certain which of us is which. No matter. We both rock.

Laughter grows in proportion to madness ....

(Being more-or-less a continuation of Saturday's piece, "The gift of laughter in a mad world.")

Andre-Louis, the "real-life" man in a novel; Scaramouche, a devilish clown, full of bravado: Two separate actual identities within one body or simply a skilled role player? Here is a master with a sword and an avenging killer with a sword; a leader, both political and real; a man who has never known his parents, a man who has seen his best friend killed, and man who just misses love.

There is no reason to go through the plot of the novel, "Scaramouche," in detail since it is the character which is most important here. The character is complex and multi-faceted, and takes on many roles during the course of the book. A few points:

Andre-Louis has been raised by his godfather, and has no knowledge of the identity of his mother or father. He swears to avenge the death of his best friend at the hands of a Marquis. He becomes a voice in the movement which later erupts into the French Revolution. He is forced into hiding because of his political activities, and finds shelter among a troupe of traveling actors. There, he dons an actual mask and assumes the role of Scaramouche -- a fool, a rogue, a clown. Along the course of the novel, Andre-Louis becomes a master of the sword, takes a seat in the post-revolution senate and proceeds to do away with the bad guys through a series of duels. Without revealing the twists and turns and surprises, Andre-Louis learns the identity of both his mother and father as the book concludes. Love, too, is found, in case you were curious.

Everyone has many roles in life, generally conventional roles such as parent, spouse, co-worker, possibly that of a supervisor, friend, enemy and on and on. Through these roles, perceptions are made about how we view ourselves and how others view us. But, how many of us purposely don a mask, as did Scaramouche, to hide ourselves? Scaramouche literally wore a mask. Most who wear them do so in a figurative sense. How many people lose themselves because they choose to wear a mask rather than to be themselves?

I am thinking more of the obvious here, at least in my own case. Why did I choose the Marine Corps when I was within a breath of going into the Air Force. It was not rough and tough vs. baby blue, either. Had I gone into the Air Force, I was signed up for para-rescue. These are the guys who chopper or jump in to pull out downed pilots in hot combat zones, or secure crash sites and assist survivors. My decision to become a Marine came because of my own self-perception of being more of a fighter than a rescuer. There are many instances where I know the perception by others of me being a Marine stereotypical gunman rather than an Air Force stereotypical electronics expert was the result of my decision about which branch to join and affected our relationships.

Another instance of perception is evident to me because I have worked in journalism and because I have been in charge of a prison unit which housed inmates who had committed every crime known to mankind. In the context of casual conversations or typical relationships, which do you suppose I will talk about freely or describe? How has simply stating this "other role" here on this page possibly (or probably) changed someone's perception of me?

More to the point of me, myself and I, what is it that compels me to search out varied experiences, which is another way of saying, compels me to wear many masks? What is my intent for doing this? My goal for doing this? Am I even in control of these decisions, or does something keep pushing me to change directions at nearly every crossroad? It is much more than hopping aboard a tour bus and visiting all the sites; it is hopping off the bus for a while now and then to actually experience and to be a functioning part of the site.

It no longer is any more uncommon for a person to have two or three careers rather rather than a single one, than it is uncommon for a person to have two or three long-term partners. One of the few things I am absolutely certain of is that I still have more masks to wear, and while I am wearing them, they will be real and not be a masquerade. What that will do to my self-perception and the perception others have of me, I am less certain.

The overriding factor here is my belief there is specific reason I am the way I am, which I think is true for each of us. I do not mean a genetic reason, either. If it were that simple, I would buy a boat, hoist the mainsail and let it run with the wind. I mean, while we all are linked by the commonality of being earthbound, mortal humans, I sense a certain spark that makes each of us a separate and unique entity -- each of us a snowflake, if you like, and I want to define my snowflake (if I am able) before it melts.

From the last few pages of "Scaramouche"

"But where will you go? What will you do?"

"Oh, something. Consider that in four years I have been lawyer, politician, swordsman, and buffoon -- especially the latter. There is always a place in the world for Scaramouche. Besides, do you know that unlike Scaramouche I have been oddly provident? I am the owner of a little farm in Saxony. I think that agriculture might suit me. It is a meditative occupation; and when all is said, I am not a man of action. I haven't the qualities for the part."

She looked up into his face, and there was a wistful smile in her deep blue eyes.

"Is there any part for which you have not the qualities, I wonder?"

"Do you really? Yet you cannot say that I have made a success of any of those which I have played. I have always ended by running away. I am running away now from a thriving fencing-academy, which is likely to become the property of Le Duc. That comes of having gone into politics, from which I am also running away. It is the one thing in which I really excel. That, too, is an attribute of Scaramouche ...."

Music Note: Listening to a classic rock music station on the radio ....
Currently playing: "The World I Know" by Collective Soul ....


Katy said...

Gosh, this is a very interesting and thought-provoking post Fram. Let me say first that I think we all wear many masks for many purposes during the course of our lifetimes. Yet I have observed in myself that my "work mask", say, or my "social event" mask becomes ever closer to being very little different from the real - mask free - me.

In other words, I'd postulate personally that the mask grows to fit the face, or the face to fit the mask perhaps, as we age; we are less and less concerened with the opinions of others and correspondingly more content to leave the masks at home as we age and gain in self-confidence. I'd also say that wearing of masks is useful when it serves a purpose, and only ever deceitful if we wear a mask when we should be confronting our real selves.

I hope you're having / have had a great weekend Fram. Please ask Fram the First not to give me the pirates' "black spot" for missing a day yesterday :-)

Fram said...

Well, there is life out there. Have you ever read, "Earth Abides" by George Stewart, Katy? A man comes around after a rattlesnake bite, and it appears he is the only surviving human being on earth. So few are reading or writing today on the blogs, I was wondering if that might be what happened to me. By the way, Isherwood eventually finds Emma, and all is well.

I think you are absolutely correct in day-to-day living in ordinary circumstances and under normal social conditions. I was trying to extend beyond the norm for specific purposes, but not always honest purposes. For instance, I know my Marine Corps persona is not my actual self. I blended and mixed myself to fit the mold (and the mask) and attempted to excel within that specific environment. This is a case of does turning myself into something other than my actual self affect how others perceive me or how I perceive myself.

Or, in a prison setting, when I would pat a man on the back who murdered his girl friend's child and "buddy-up" to him so he would be a snitch for me, this is not what I wanted to do or how I normally would behave. You might imagine what I would like to have done to him, and I won't even tell you how he murdered the child. I wore a mask there to accomplish a task to the best of my ability. This is a case of does the reason justify the action (mask), and how does it influence perception.

These are the sorts of masks I am referring to, and the justifications for and the ramifications from wearing them.

TheChicGeek said...

Hi Fram :) Very intersting post about masks we wear. I do agree with Katy in the sense that as we get older we tend to just be who we are. We understand ourselves better so it becomes much easier to be authentic.

Is it really a mask or just one of many facets of our personality? Human beings are so complicated and in order to survive we are able to blend in to meet the circumstances we find ourselves in, chameleons, as it were.

I met someone once who was all about appearances. He would always talk about life as a game and making people believe what he wanted them to so he could attain whatever it was he was after. Didn't matter if what he was depicting himself as was a total fake, so long as it allowed him to win, that's all he cared about. I think he was the saddest and most shallow person I've ever met in my life. He lived in a mask. Because he was never himself, he never felt loved because in his gut he always knew people were loving his mask, who he was impersonating, not the real person. Extremely sad.
It is only through letting go of those masks that we can experience true love. We know we are loved and accepted for just who we are.

I love the pictures but I don't believe it is really you :) If it is, you were an adorable little boy...but I think you are, once again, pulling my leg :)

I've googled Scaramouche and I'm adding it to my reading list. What a wonderful story. Thank you for introducing me to it :)

Fram said...

Neither of the children is Fram the First or Fram Actual, Kelly. Neither are any of the fiddle or accordion players. We were born as adults and guitar players. Oh, yes. Dancers, too.

I do think we all are chameleons, but most are amateurs and usually put on the mask for good reason and to accomplish a specific task. Some are professional chameleons, though, such as a good reporter or a good cop or a good actor, still putting on the mask for a (hopefully) beneficial purpose.

Buffoons, such as the man you describe, who wear a mask to serve only personal, selfish ends are no different than thieves, I think, and less honest than many thieves. Such people usually fall under the category of being "too dumb to know they are dumb." When I think about it, I realize that I have known a few like that, both men and women.

I hope you do read "Scaramouche." It has a happy ending, which is the way I prefer all stories to end.

A Cuban In London said...

You're right, mate. YOu both rock. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Fram said...

Yeh-h-h-h-h-h-h ....

And, many thanks for the visit, CiL.

Natalie said...

Dear Fram,
Not long time ago you called my “Masquerade” poem “horrid”… In your recent post you discuss pretty much the same issues.

Re: writing about happiness. I think happiness has no time for thinking and analyzing, it is simply …HAPPY. On the other hand, sadness is all about thinking, questioning, interpreting, etc. Happiness is not as inspiring as sadness… Shakespeare’s sonnets were not inspired by happiness, yet we see only beauty in them, not gloom… Or not???

Re: The curse of beautiful women. It is all in man’s mind!!

Rachael Cassidy said...

Fram... Have you ever read any Queer Theory? I suggest "Queer Theories" by Donald E. Hall. Plays into perception and the different "masks" we all wear throught the changing phases of our lives. I wrote some about it in my blog.....

Fram said...

I almost missed seeing your note here, Natalie.

I cannot believe I called anything you wrote as being "horrid." I'll try to review that later. My thoughts about your poetry basically rolled into two categories in which I felt the love poems were more-or-less too melodramatic while the ones you wrote from observations of the aesthetic and/or natural world around you as being significantly better.

I am not as certain as you about sadness vs. happiness in the overall effect of either writing or reading poetry. I will think about that one more. I also might argue with you about what effect a beautiful woman has on a man's mind.

Fram said...

Hi there, Rachael ....

I have not heard of the book, "Queer Theories," and the name Donald Hall is common enough so that I am not certain if I have heard of its author, either.

I will try to visit your site and read your comments about it a little later.

For the record, I think your spelling of Rachael, although seldom seen, is the most appropriate and the prettiest and probably the most accurate to the original.

Rachael Cassidy said...

Why thank you regarding my name. I am a "junior" of sorts; first and middle names of my late grandmother. She was feisty, loved to garden, and was quietly wise. I miss her.

Something special ....