Friday, April 01, 2011

Myth as a Weapon: Masks and Monsters

By Dr.Adventure!

The use of costume and persona is a part of almost every culture IN THE WORLD, and has been since the get-go. They have been used for storytelling, healing, ritual, celebration, and war. The ability to create and embody Characters, and make something imaginary into something tangible, is as integral to the human condition as thumbs, making tools and playing with fire.We create Myths to help us cope with the world around us and then develop personas to Navigate these myths. These personae are the tools we use to sculpt the metaphysical, and to become something new, something extraordinary.

Ancient (and contemporary) shamans channel spirits and gods using costume, ritual, dance, drugs and stories. They leave behind their human form and allow themselves to become the embodiment of something apparently non-human. They use these rituals to gain power and knowledge to heal, to curse, to protect, to implore, to summon and to teach.
The act of taking on a mythical persona becomes tangible, a process of actual physical change where the human aspect is overcome and its limits surpassed. This process, the theater of it and the ritual state of expanded awareness restructure the metaphysical self as the body is transformed.
Samurai used a similar process to make themselves appear as demons to their enemies. They used masks and elaborate ornaments and bright colors to frighten their enemies. These things also put the samurai in a mind-state where he was more than a man, he was a monster, terrifying and unstoppable. They would play the role while fighting for their lives and cutting people’s heads off, which as far as I’m concerned is about as "Real" as it can get. The goal of this practice was to achieve supremacy in warfare through distraction and intimidation. The skills required to perform these roles were just as disciplined as a soldier’s swordplay and strategy. By combining finely honed talents and outward expressions of otherworldly selves they effectively became something more, and in doing so turned battles into legends, men into Heroes and history into Myth.

The modern practice of method acting, or inhabiting a role, comes close to these ancient ritual practices. With notable exceptions. When an actor is preparing for a role, researching, practicing and putting him/herself in the position of their character, they are essentially reprogramming themselves to become that persona. The difference between this practice and the others previously mentioned is that conventional theater and media is often (but not always) approached with a sense of "playing pretend". This can be dangerous if a person believes that the thing they are "playing" at is not real and can do them no harm. Which is, of course, bullshit.

Method acting at its best is definitely approached with incredible discipline and also the awareness that one needs to be able to, in some way, anchor themselves so as not to be overwhelmed. When done poorly, this practice can be massively psychologically devastating. Interestingly, there comes a point where the method may over take the actor and actually turn him or her into a stronger person.
At that point, would they, or you, want to return to your "true self" or continue on as something new and powerful? And if so, how the fuck do you bear the weight?

All of this and more has brought us to where we are today. In this future, OUR future, we can be anything. We can write ourselves into novels that we publish and distribute on our own. We can inhabit the internet in a vast array of guises. We can play out our fantasies in videogames and movies and at sci-fi conventions. We can get loaded on mushrooms and go running around the woods as nymphs and satyrs for fucks sake. We can take on guises that become the spark point for revolution.
These practices are real in that they are part of people’s daily lives and popular culture, they are mythic in the sense they they hint at the true nature of self and the act of becoming. They are tied to history through traditions and rituals. However, these practices have only rarely been used to their full potential. Remember, a Mask is used to conceal and reveal simultaneously. It is a tool to overcome ones weaknesses through will and ritual, and to forge oneself into something new. A mask is a tool that allows someone to Discover what they can be, NOT to hide from what they are. Unfortunately the latter is a prevalent memetic which can rot the soul as opposed to fortifying it.
The modern "Super-Hero" genre delves deeper into the nature of masks and persona than most other popular media. People becoming or embodying something powerful and taking on new forms and attitudes happens all the time. These characters use their personas to protect themselves or others, frighten their enemies, inspire the masses, and symbolize ideals beyond themselves. These personas also often represent the characters truest self, with their human counterpart representing something flawed and weak and to be trancended. These stories hint at our true potential; Our power to shake the earth as gods and monsters, and to change the world.

Our reality is built on myth, and myths are built on reality. Somewhere along the line the stories become real and take on a life of their own. At some point people start DOING things that make new myths and inspire others to act. At some point, we become what we are and the veil drawn over reality will finally lift and the real show will start.
We are the Atomic Super-Mutant Hyper-children of the future!

We have been fed powerful mind-altering hallucinogens since childhood, been bombarded by the most powerful memetic control techniques in human history, been irradiated and poisoned. And still, we thrive.
We eat copious amounts of the most ludicrously potent ritual drugs On EARTH just to get our kicks at fucking dance parties! We need it louder and faster and harder than ever before. We need to be stronger, kinder, and fiercer than ever before.
We need to become the legends of a new era and beat reality till its spitting teeth and shitting blood and begging for mercy. Our alternatives are dull, stifled and ultimately FATAL FOR THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE.
Our choices are obvious, Conquer ourselves and this grand mythic future, or get eaten by the zombie hordes, drowned by poisoned oceans or turned into batteries by motherfucking robots!

So, grab your Capes and Cowls kiddies, the fun's just getting started. Turn this future of ours into something wild and beautiful, or I may come to eat you Myself.

1 comment:

  1. Fucking Awesome! Your is the glory and horror that makes the pen a mighty sword.



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