From bad air and virus
Me from you, you from me.
Criminals and Masqued Balls
What you see is not real.
Take new identity
Be who you want to be.
Masks can be bad or good,
Used for fun or for harm
Use them advisedly.
Wisdom from JM
Each has many masks.
The healthy are the truly wealthy.
Better to prevent than to cure.
Fitness checkmates illness.
Take care fo your health and your health will take care of you.
Science tests, religion asserts.
Mankind has managed to survive and even thrive, despite life's many perils and because of resiliency and tenacity.
The Man Of Many Masks
Once there was a Very Important Man who had also become Very Famous. This man enjoyed his status and strutted about like a Tom Turkey leading his flock the day before Thanksgiving.
One day a virus entered the land. The VIM wasn’t worried. He knew he was healthy and besides, he could buy his way out of any illness. He continued to trot around the land, calling his people together. And they came, despite the doctors’ exhortations to stay at home. If their Great Leader did not fear this little virus, why should they worry?
More and more people became ill. They were weak, the VIM said, but he was strong. He wasn’t worried. And if the weak people became ill, that was their worry, not his.
Until the day when the VIM himself became ill. At first, he poo-poohed the diagnosis. “I just have the sniffles,” he said. “Nothing to worry about.” But he became sicker. The finest doctors in the land gathered around to help him heal. And soon he felt better.
“See,” he proclaimed. “I am bigger than this virus. Nothing can stop me.” He tore off his mask and called to his Believers to join him in a big party.
But the VIM did not feel as well as he proclaimed. And soon he felt so sick he had to return to the hospital. Again, the doctors did their best to heal him. But the virus had hold of him now and he became very ill.
One day, a small, white-haired, unassuming man came to the hospital.
“I am a doctor,” he said. “I would like to see the VIM. I think perhaps I can save him.”
At first, the other doctors were skeptical, but as they talked to this doctor, they became convinced of his experience and expertise. At his insistence, they put a mask on the VIM and brought him to see the doctor.
The doctor wasted no time with introductions. Nor did he flatter the VIM.
“Take off your mask,” he said, although he himself was wearing a mask and protective garments.
“Gladly,” the VIM said. He tore off his mask and grinned. “I guess you are one of my supporters.”
The doctor didn’t answer. Instead, he said, “Now take off the other mask.”
The VIM was confused. “I don’t have any other mask,” he said. “I hate masks.”
“On the contrary,” the doctor said. “You wear many.”
“Who are you anyway? You are such a small man, with a tiny voice. Why should I listen to you?”
The doctor didn’t take offense. He just repeated, “Take off that mask.”
Reluctantly, the VIM reached up to find a mask on his face. He tore it off angrily.
“How did that get there?”
“What does it say?
The VIM peered at the writing on the mask. “Very Important Person. That’s me.” The VIM grinned. “So I’ll put it back on.”
“No, set it aside. It does you no good in here. Now take off the other mask.”
The not-so-VIM was confused. He reached up tentatively and found another mask. This time he did as he was told.
“World’s Richest Man.” He grinned. “I made tons of money. I had buildings built. And they’re all named after me. Rich people are always on top.”
The doctor didn’t answer. He just said, “The next mask please.”
Now the once VIM was worried. What was this doctor doing? Nevertheless, he removed the mask he now found on his face.
“TV Personality,” he read unprompted. “Yes. I was on television and everyone looked at me. They loved me. They laughed at everything I said. Oh, that was a great time.”
“The next mask,” the doctor prompted quietly.
The man removed the mask he now found on his face. It was made of a silky material and very ornate.
“Woman’s man,” he read. He winked at the doctor. “Oh yes, I am a veritable Playboy. I can have any woman I wish. They all flock to me.”
“Put it over there,” the doctor said, pointing to the bedstand.
“No, I want to wear it. I need it.”
“It will do you no good here,” the doctor replied.
“Oh yes, it will. There are plenty of nurses on this ward. Even if they are all wearing masks.”
The doctor just pointed to the bedstand. “And the last mask,” he said.
The man reluctantly reached up and pulled off the mask he found. This one was made of plastic. It was of a Superhero, the one he had admired as a child.
The man did not speak this time. He was remembering the first time he had worn the mask. His father was yelling at him for the poor marks he had gotten in school. He cursed at his son and told him he would never amount to anything. The boy had run to his room, grabbed his Superhero mask and cape and run back to his father, yelling, “You can’t tell me what to do. I am Superhero. I can do anything. I can even make you disappear.” Then he had snapped his fingers and run out the door.
The man gave a little sniff. He looked at the doctor who looked back at him with a small smile of compassion. Compassion? What was that, the man wondered. Where had he heard that word before? He looked away.
“Now that you have removed the masks,” the doctor spoke quietly, “it is possible that you might heal. It is up to you. And time. I can do no more."
The doctor walked out of the room.
The man looked at all the masks. He found the surgical mask and put it on. Then he sat there in silence for a long time.
Did the man heal? Did he put the masks back on or discard them? Only time will tell.
Once there was a population of citizens somewhere in the world. They behaved as all citizens, sometimes good and kind, sometimes selfish and nasty. And they learned to conceal their true feelings most of the time, as these emotions seemed to just get them in trouble. Each person wore a mask or two, or many, to present their best side to their co-workers, their friends, and even their families.
There came a time of great plague. The authorities exhorted the citizens to stay inside and avoid other people. They were to wear a mask over their face any time they went out to be with others. The people obeyed for the most part. Gradually, they became accustomed to the masks and the littlest children were even allowed to wear a mask as well. Everyone became accustomed to seeing only a person’s eyes. One never knew if the person next to them was smiling or frowning. Was that clerk annoyed? Was the pedestrian passing by on the sidewalk happy or sad? Who could tell? Some people took to giving a little wave just to make a friendly connection.
Throughout this period, the people kept their old masks as well. It was even more important, they reasoned, in this time of peril and unrest to present one’s best face, to avoid confrontation.
The plague lasted several years. The citizens adapted, as people are wont to do. Wearing masks, staying away from others, and being careful it became a new way of life.
Finally the plague faded away. It did so slowly and imperceptibly, so that no one really noticed. But the doctors noticed and they told the authorities to gradually reduce the restrictions. Finally the great day came when the governments told the people they might remove their masks.
Well, the people felt this called for a great celebration. A group of them arranged a large party. They called it the UnMasqued Ball. Everyone would attend the Ball wearing one or several masks and remove them during the festivities. Many people liked this idea and people began making fancy masks to befit the occasion.
Expectations were high on the night of the Unmasked Ball. Many people stood before the ballroom hours before the doors opened. Dressed in their finest clothes, they wore masks of all colors and shapes, masks that concealed their true identity. Families were there, friends with friends, lovers, co-workers, all glad to be able to come together finally.
The doors opened. There was food and drink and dance. The people had a great time. Finally, it was announced that the unmasking would take place. At the first ring of a bell, everyone was to remove one mask. Then again, after a few minutes, the bell would ring again and they were to remove another mask. And so on, until all the masks were gone and their true selves revealed.
Excitement was high. Ding! Everyone peeled off their mask. Many had another mask beneath that one, so no much of their face was revealed. On the second ring, people began to recognize each other. Most had worn only two masks and assumed this was the end of the game. But the bell rang again. The people reached up to their faces and found a thin film on their faces. Some peeled this off. Again the bell rang. More people peeled off the thin masks they had not known they wore. Again. Another filmy mask. Ding. And yet another.
Finally the people stood with naked faces before each other.
A woman looked at her husband. “Why, I never have seen you look at me like that,” she said. “Such a loving look.” The husband was embarrassed, but he let his wife gather him in her arms.
A worker looked at his co-workers and his boss. He saw the colleague who was always so brazen and rude. Now the man stood in confusion, almost scared. The worker, who had always avoided this man, went over to talk to him. A female worker went up to her boss. “Such a kind look on your face,” she spoke. “I am no longer afraid of you.” The boss tried to smile. It took a while, as he was unused to doing so.
This went on all through the room. There were some unpleasant surprises as well. A woman found that her group of friends, their frozen smiles gone, really didn’t appreciate her. She shrugged and went off to find new friends. At least she knew now and no one had to pretend. For better or for worse, the people recognized who their real friends were, and began to better understand their coworkers. Families began to talk in earnest. Instead of engaging in small talk of movies and memes, they revealed their hopes and expectations, and in doing so, the families became closer. Mothers and daughters formed a new bond, fathers counseled sons, siblings ran off to play together rather than fight.
The Un-Masquing Ball was a great success. The people felt free, not only from the Plague but also from the plague they had created for themselves. This is not to say that life was perfect from then on. They had to learn a new way of life and many slipped back into old patterns. But they had seen a different possibility and returned to it often, relishing their new unmasked lives. And the Plague never returned.
Instead of stepping forward
Into an embrace,
He stepped backward,
Then held his hands
In prayer position
To say farewell,
Thank you, and
May you be well.