A Reflection written in France
Among the swarms of people, residents and visitors, that bustle through Paris, I am merely a face. Living in a city causes people to think and act in different ways. Just being with the people, riding in the Metro with them, traversing their streets, I began to feel how closed off they are to the world. Everyone is wearing a mask–to protect themselves, to not let others see their true selves.
At one point, I was deeply frustrated with it. I feel like the quest of the last few months has been to learn authenticity. Who am I really? Who is God really? How is our relationship doing? It has been all about not staying on the surface but delving deeper. “Become who you are!” I was in Paris meeting peoples’ eyes and smiling, but then I remembered city people don’t do that and it could send a message I don’t want.
Riding on the Metro I knew I stood out with my large hiking backpack, but I felt like I fit in more when I acted bored, had a blank look on my face, and appeared to care little about the stops. We encountered young ladies near the Eiffel Tower who wanted signatures to help the deaf and the mute. I’m not entirely sure how their attempt to target only English-speakers would actually help the deaf and the mute of France, but that was their mission. The beggars at the churches–are they actually poor or is it all a ruse?
It bothered me to be living in a world of masks when I was striving for authenticity. I hate trying to evaluate people’s motives when my innate desire is to trust. I want to believe in people. At one point I looked at the crowd and thought of how each person is a well, their depths cannot be plumbed. Yet if we cut off the deeper parts of ourselves, if we live as masks instead of just hiding behind them, if we live so long in the superficial and shallow, we will begin to lose our ability to go deep, we will lose our belief that we even have depth. We will become the masks we wear.
Perhaps this is why the faith appears to be dying. People are tired of masks of holiness. They, whether they know it or not, crave authenticity. And the pagan world presents at least one thing authentically–I want to live without rules or morals but simply in the pursuit of pleasure.
How does one live authenticity in a world of masks? I don’t know exactly but I have some ideas. Don’t feign indifference when you actually care. Care less about appearance and more about actuality. Live deeply. Penetrate the inner depths you have and seek to know others at a deeper level, too. Refuse to be content with living in the shallow end, but rather put out into the deep!