The Zen Diagram of the Self
Incognito ergo sum.
Sidney Morgenbesser (1922–2004)
Beyond what these stories tell us separately and in thematic clusters, what do they tell us all together? We assume that masquerades lie, and they often do, at least on the surface. But often masquerades tell a deeper truth, that masquerading as ourselves reaffirms an enduring self (or network of selves) inside us, which does not change even if our masquerades, intentional or helpless, make us look different to others. Yeats may have had this in mind when he wrote, “I think that all happiness depends on the energy to assume the mask of some other self; that all joyous or creative life is a re-birth as something not oneself, something which has no memory and is created in a moment and perpetually renewed.”1 After all, the very word persona originally designated the mask worn by actors in Greek tragedies, but the word means “that through which [per] the sound [of the actor’s voice, sona] is heard.” That is, the actor’s presence was an integral part of the mask; he animated it, and it animated him.
Erving Goffman speaks of “the field of public life” wherein our public self must play its part, versus a place “backstage” where the individual can relax before having