Dramatis Personae: 7.5 Billion and Increasing

Otto Dix
Masks As Ruins (1946)
Otto Dix
Masks As Ruins (1946)

The work of Otto Dix has always fascinated me. But, this one which I had never seen before is astoundingly beautiful to me. I do tend to favor the surreal, dark, eerie, disturbing and macabre (as most of the few who are reading this already know). And I suspect that the majority of people will indeed find this disturbing and nightmarish. But, it is the masks of the masses that causes my nightmares. Remember that person comes from the Latin word, persona, meaning “an actor’s mask.” Recall also how Alan Watts reminds us that to be a “real person” is to be a “genuine fake.”

All the world’s a stage as Shakespeare says in As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII. Let’s take a look at that:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

With 7.5+ billion players in this world (and ‘play’rs gonna play!’), there are way too many masks for my liking. Oh, how we change them often and even in front of our own bathroom mirrors. If you want real, show your vulnerability and be brave enough to receive another’s. Real and raw is what is beautiful, not the glamour of illusion. The magic will always happen outside of your comfort zone in the realm where masks dissolve.

I hope others just may also find this Otto Dix as – not just “interesting” – but, beautiful. Find it. It’s there. But, you may have to take off your mask and costume, because you must see it also with the heart and soul, not your eyeballs (incidentally a word invented by William Shakespeare)!


© 2019 Michael Armenia

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