Thursday, April 10, 2008
Show and Tell
That we wear many masks is not a new observation, but not all the masks we wear represent what we would like to be, but instead, actually reflect who we truly are in spirit. I have always felt in deep sympathy with the character of an Eighteenth-Century English gentleman of leisure; in a word, an aristocrat. This is not hubris, but who I truly feel myself to be. The question why this is so is better left to psychology. Perhaps I saw in this image all that was best and highest in human nature. It represented an ideal of what I longed to become, the nobleman.
This trait is perhaps surprisingly not unusual. The great horror writer H. P. Lovecraft fitted very much into this mold, though his reasons, I suspect, are more vague. His short story "A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson" shows Lovecraft making fun of these pretension's, so he was obviously well aware of his affectation’s, and could joke at his own expense.
The American astronomer Edwin Hubble, for whom the Hubble telescope is named, spent three years at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and, to his colleague’s eternal irritation, the accent and mode of dress never afterward left him.
Lastly, I should not omit the poet T. S. Eliot. Rarely has a man's character been written so plainly on his face. Though born and raised in St. Louis Missouri, he eventually became more English than the English. During his early years in that country, his desire to be so was looked on curiously by the natives. Obviously, something in the quality of "Englishness", if such a thing exists, resonated deeply with Eliot's conservative values. He came from a wealthy American family and aristocracy is aristocracy wherever it may reside.
What an irony that the desire to emulate an age and a nation, so often tied to reason and sensibility, should be derided as irrational.