My best friend in eighth grade claimed that he could adopt anyone’s personality. He claimed that if he spent enough time around someone, their quirks and mannerisms would rub off, and that he’d acquire some of their being.
We use the term persona sometimes to describe the way a person acts, the general flavor of their jokes and conversations. If someone adopts a new persona, it usually means that they are adopting a character, the way that Steven Colbert used to do on the Colbert Report.
Alan Watts tells us that a persona translates to “mask.” And that the word person, of course, comes from persona. This person we think we are is actually a mask. And every single conversations becomes a performance, an evolution of this character that we’ve created. It’s not a negative thing because it’s the only way we can communicate. Silly as it is, Ben Stein’s insights about this topic in the Jim Carrey classic “The Mask” actually contain some wisdom.
(Interesting to note that Jim Carrey is now obsessed with the idea of dropping his ego. Celebrities are more prone to this than most people since their persona is compounded by the public’s perception.)
But knowing this fact liberates us. We are not the masks, or the personas, that we wear. Whenever we get sucked into thinking we are, we’re deluding ourselves and setting ourselves up for potential suffering.
The one that’s behind the mask is always there, easily accessible but hard to locate. Call it the soul, the spirit, the eyes that see, your face before you were born. Others can connect to it, but can’t describe it in words.
Words are for personas, after all.