Vanity is a Photograph, a Selfie

Vanity ElizabethShe is standing in front of a Text.
This is no ordinary Text, it is the script of a play which was once performed,
but is now over.
The actors have packed up and gone home.
The audience, such as it was, left early.
They’d seen enough, they’d seen it all before.
She’s standing on the empty stage, the scenery decaying, falling apart.
Faded colours. Rust and damp. Holes and tatters.

The Text is part of her history.
She is wearing the mask, the persona, that she adopted
thinking that it made her one of the players.
But she is wrong.
She thought she could speak the lines of the text,
but they were dry and bitter in her mouth.
There was no eloquence left, no rhetoric. Just words in an old book.

That was then. It seemed a good idea to enter into that other world.
It spoke to her condition. “I was a stranger and you took me in.”
That has a number of meanings. She was taken in; and she was taken in.

Such transitions are never easy. It was made deliberately hard.
She had to undergo a ritual stripping of the personality,
and then wear the costume of a neophyte.
She had to obey. No arguments were allowed.

What you were told makes no sense.
What they told you was without meaning, but sounded rich and ripe with sparkling wisdom that would overflow and bring transcendence into your lowly life.
You lost the power of discerning what was valid and what is false.
That’s how they keep you on their particular stage, at that particular stage in your life.
Fences have been erected within your mind: Do not cross this boundary. Do not question, because questioning is a sign of lack of faith. Do as you are told and spread the word,
even though that word is nothing but empty air, will never give you the kind of truth you can crunch down on.
The Text sounds intriguing, it invites you to explore its mysteries,
it emanates from the deep bass of the universe –
it resonates in the mind, and it triggers connections.
You want to know this and make it know you.
You need it to make sense so you find sense by twisting it, turning it, torturing it to make it fit.
It is the DaVinci code, the Grail, it is el Dorado.
It is what you want it to be: it is the key to wisdom.
And yet it cannot be, it never will be,
for no word, no code, no thought will ever open such a door.
The universe does not conform, become solid, fix itself into reality.
For then it would be nothing. And everything.

You believed, and you believed without doubt.
Because that was the only way, the true way.
Any exploration of these ideas outside
beyond this particular arena, would reveal the sham, the showmanship, hints of a failing reality.
Realising the con, you’d find something better to do.

Yet she stands in front of this panoply of useless knowledge
and fails to understand what she has done.
To try and save her dignity she says:
This is Me. This is what I believe, what I stand for.
But that is simply the mask she put on, and will one day discard.
She will see that it was not reality
but a stage set, that she was never one of the actors, just pretending.
The stage is empty.
She wanted it to be full, but it is empty.
This is one of life’s lessons. We learn it, and do not learn it, many times.
We dream, and think it real.
We wake, but we are no longer sure, and we get stuck, uncertain, mistaken.
Stand on the empty stage.
Here I am. Look at me. Aren’t I clever? Take the picture. Snap.

The backdrop shows trees,
an imaginary forest from which she must seek a way out.
There are pathways through this forest,
and each brings its own challenge.
Choosing a path means losing herself,
losing her Self,
the loss of Self,
the loss of Selfie.
© Peter Young 2015



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3 responses to “Vanity is a Photograph, a Selfie

  1. Good to see this posted after hearing it at our writing group this afternoon, more time to see exactly what it looks like and to think about the depth and significance of the imagery.


  2. There is so much in this piece and it resonates such that I feel I have known people in her situation, behaving as she does. I know there may not be an easy answer but it would help me to more fully understand and enjoy the piece to know, who took her in?


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