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Letter 053: The Repository of Unlived Things

Letter 053: The Repository of Unlived Things

Greetings, hero!

Who are you? 

No, really, who are you? Because I find my answer to that questions changes just about every time I ask it. One moment I’m a swashbuckling expert at life with the wind at my back, care-free and in control (and probably looking at myself in the mirror just a little too often). Then the next moment I can think of myself as the wise old mage, the subtle trickster scheming their way through life with hidden jokes and impeccable taste. And then the next moment the whole house of cards falls down, and I feel as though I am and will never be anything besides an old man. 

That’s one of the reason I think we love stories so dearly—they give us masks to wear. The rogue. The villain. The royalty in distress. We can try them on for size, or keep them tucked up our sleeve for the moment we may need them in the future. Sometimes we take on those characters for fun, trying our hand at an accent to try to get a laugh out of a partner. Other times we put on a character as a mask of necessity, imagining ourselves as braver than we are in order to spring into action.

But in the middle of it all, we find ourselves asking: which one of these characters I play in my life is the real me? If in a day I feel as though I can be five different people all at once, who is the person behind all the masks I wear? It’s a question posed by the poet Rilke, who wrote: 

“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.”

That’s why I find that original question so difficult—because I don’t think I know half of who I am at least half the time. But there’s another side to Rilke’s poem, one that I want to leave you with today—the knowledge that we get to choose the mask we wear.

So as you go about your day, take on the characters you love. Roleplay as the bard to get a laugh from your kids, or channel your very best pious grandmother into the most delightful chocolate chip cookies. And if you find yourself wondering who we all really are, perhaps it’s time for you to look deep within? To choose a new mask to wear, a fresh outlook on life, to bring it into being from the repository of unlived thing.

May the road rise up to meet you!

The Mentor