About masks, scripts and shadows

Loureiro, the shoemaker who loves books and wines, and I had just watched a movie in the only movie theater of the small and charming village located at the foot of the mountain that is home to the monastery. We went to a pleasant bookstore that has a café in the back, to chat and have some coffee. The film was about a couple in their 50s, Dayse and Giovani; both had had previous relationships. He was a quiet high-school math teacher, practiced judo, and was an aspiring screen writer. His dream was to tell the world the stories he had always had in him. He would devote much of his spare time to his writing. She was a cheerful woman who lived off the generous pension her late husband, who passed away years ago, had left her. She was a charitable person, always paying heed to the needs of others; she also liked to go out with her friends and have fun. Many thought they were the perfect couple. However, they had an on-off, intermittent relationship, always for the same reason. Sometimes she would become grumpy and annoyed, whether for the limited display of affection by the boyfriend or for the overly quiet life she had next to him. Giovani, then, preferred to withdraw himself as he felt she was not the person with whom he should share his emotional life. After some days or weeks, the girlfriend would seek him again as if nothing had happened, and they would reconnect, more out of convenience than love. This had happened many times, always for the same reason. The last time they drew apart from each other, even though there was no formal breakup, he had decided they wouldn’t reconnect anymore; even though he acknowledged the many virtues she had, he just did not love her. A romantic relationship based only on convenience is harmful for both parties. This time, by chance, he came to know she was involved with another person. In turn, Dayse was told that Geovani knew about her new love relationship. She then sent him a message saying that the story was not exactly what he had heard. She denied having a new love relationship, stated that Geovani still had a spot in her heart and revisited her typical transparence-and-loyalty speech. She had always regretted that her previous marriage had been badly affected by the constant cheating of her deceased husband, and this is why she had no tolerance for that. She said this was the reason why she also cheated on her late husband during their marriage. But the fact that she was having a new romance was undeniable. Even though he felt jealous, he understood this moment of hers, respected her right to try to be happy with another partner, and thought that sooner or later it would be good if he also found a significant other. The problem is that he decided to stop by her home to return some of her belongings that were at his place, and to say that they could be good friends. Much to his surprise, she was extremely aggressive towards him, making some vague, disjointed accusations. The woman claimed that he was to blame for all that had happened, that she hated the overly quiet life they led when they were together, and that she despised him and had been mistaken about the love she had always said she felt for him. Giovani spent days wondering about the reasons for her reaction. He decided to write a script about their story, so that he could tell it to himself, in order to fully understand their issues. Interestingly, this was the first script he sold to a studio to be turned into a movie. In the opening session, he meets Dayse at the lobby of the movie theater; she is with her new boyfriend, quite happy; he is also happy because his dream came true. The final scene is an exchange of looks between the two of them, leaving the audience to draw the conclusion they see fit.

Comfortably seated at a corner table with two cups of coffee before us, I said that the scene in which Dayse is extremely aggressive with Giovani, even uttering some profanities, was unnecessary. I confessed it had bothered me. The shoemaker replied: “This is the most important scene of the movie, a fabulous moment because it is a turning point for both.” I said I had not understood his reasoning. He was patient to explain: “All sorts of aggressiveness come from a lack in harmony between the two halves that form the being. On one hand, the ego, always concerned with appearances, in building an image of perfection and power to the world, almost always unreal, shaping the individual to mean social and cultural conditionings. In the end, the person is led into a lifestyle that inevitably causes a huge void, unbalance and distress. Often, when a person is wrapped in a cloak of pride and vanity, they strive to hide them from others and from themselves. On the other hand, there is the soul, the half that relates to the enhancement of the self’s core. It knows, even subconsciously, that the best appearance is the purest essence. When awareness is fully risen, the self does not mind disclosing to the world their innate imperfections and doubts, because they are determined to go on under the guidance of simplicity and humility, on their first steps towards plenitude.”

“The struggle between light and the shadows that dwell within us is silent, however painful. The farther apart the halves are one from the other, the stronger the suffering. Have no doubt, the most important battle in life is fought within each one. The most expressive victory is the one you win over your own self, and that is the loving alignment and the communion of your two conflictive halves. Uniting one half to the other is the sublime art of existence.”

I said I had understood his explanation, but I did not grasp why the girlfriend had been aggressive. Loureiro shrugged his shoulders and said: “The queen cannot be seen naked.” I asked if he was referring to Dayse, which the cobbler denied: “The queen is the shadows, because of their hidden power over us.” In face of the question mark that was formed on my face, the shoemaker went further in his reasoning: “The shadows must remain in disguise in order to continue to dominate the individual. Once they come into the open, a violent reaction is to be expected. It is the testiness of those who find out who they actually are, without masks, delusions or subterfuges. The shadows are there to support it, and their most common trick is to make one believe someone else is to be blamed for the suffering; it is a way to pass on accountability to others and turn a blind eye to the mirror, in order not to look at the eyes of truth. Check what Dayse did. She had extramarital relations, even though she has always shown to be against it, but she attributed her behavior to the deviant attitude of her former husband. At that time, she could not sustain her discourse on the importance of sincerity and fidelity, hence the rage and fit of temper.”

“Under the false pretense of offering protection, the shadows delude us through mistaken views and crooked rhetoric. Jealousy, pride, vanity, lies, envy, selfishness, greed, fear, ignorance about oneself are the most common shadows. The masks, the persona we create seeking acceptance and applause, transferring responsibility for one’s own choices are the most common tools the shadows provide.” I wanted to know how they came about. Loureiro was didactic: “Each one creates their own shadows; the abyss between the parts of the self is a fertile ground for them to loom.  They are creatures that dominate the creator, dragging them years on end as a sleepwalker in what appears real.”

I said that Dayse was being hypocritical, because what she said was quite different from what she did. Loureiro corrected me: “No. For an attitude to be considered hypocrisy it must be conscious. In her case, her shadows convinced her to act in a way she herself condemned, transferring responsibility to her boyfriend because he did not give her love the way she thought she deserved. Therefore, day after day, she granted more and more power to her shadows. If you think about it, ultimately, Dayse’s wrath was not against Giovani, but because the truth emerged with bad timing. She felt the despair of facing herself with no disguise. Ironically and tragically, what gave her pleasure also caused her pain, whether due to the void, incompleteness or delusion. That is how shadows operate.”

“When she faced her boyfriend and was unable to refrain from a practice she strongly condemned, without the mask, without the costume of the social persona she chose to adopt, she felt unable to face that situation composedly. The shadows of pride and vanity never allow that, and always send the invoice for someone to pay. No wonder the film’s director shows her opening the door immediately after she took a shower, with her hair wet and no makeup. That is the perfect metaphor. In fact, when she looks for her boyfriend she ends up revealing to herself her own shadows and became aware that she has all the features she complained about in others, and that bothered her in her love relationships. It is the emptiness of a life that is distant from the truth. She realizes that the root of the suffering is not in the choices others made, but in the decisions she took in her life.” He sipped his coffee and continued: “Dayse bursts out in fury, not because she cannot confront Giovani, but because she cannot confront herself. This is the most common reason for people’s aggressiveness, their own shadows that, by deluding they provide protection or success, end up manipulating and suffocating the best of the self. To the limit of the pain it causes in the soul. The person then bursts out. If not in fury, through somatic illnesses or endless sadness, for all that could have been good but was not.”

I mentioned that Giovani had had luck in escaping from the villain. Loureiro corrected me one again: “Dayse is not the villain in the story. Note that Giovani too had his own shadows that needed to be illuminated. Bear in mind that he had been dating Dayse because she was a nice, caring person, but he did not love her. So much so that he didn’t even care when her mood was foul, and they would split up. However, when he knew she had someone else, he became jealous.” I said that, maybe, that was how he acknowledged the love he felt for his girlfriend. The cobbler shook his head and explained: “I wish it were, but quite often that is not what happens. Love is a very powerful feeling, leaves no doubts, and is connected to freedom. On the other hand, jealousy is always connected with domination. I think that, deep down, he enjoyed feeling a sense of power because, after their split-ups, the girlfriend would always come to him to talk about her feelings and to make herself available. Domination is an ancient behaviour that stems from pride and vanity, two shadows that, even though they make us extremely frail, numb us with a false sense of victory. Having power over oneself is pure light; over others, it is a terrible and intoxicating shadow.”

I asked if Giovani was the villain of the story. The cobbler clarified: “He isn’t. The simplistic view of seeing people either entirely perfect or totally imperfect is another shadow that severely hampers understanding, and therefore evolution. We are all travelers on a journey to the High Lands, no exceptions made. Some are further ahead than others. However, sooner or later, everyone will complete the journey of illumination.” I interrupted him to say that the shadows were the villains of the film. Loureiro laughed heartily and corrected me once again: “Give up once and for all this idea of hero and villain, at least in absolute terms. No one can harm you more than you yourself, just like each one is their best ally. The powers of light and shadow are within you; your destiny will be defined by the one you use. Each one is, at the same time, the protagonist and the antagonist of their own story.”

“Even the shadows play an important role for the light, as they are the tools that will break the shell that prevents the seeds of virtues from coming to life. Neither deny nor suffocate your shadows or else you will burst in rage and lose balance. Just learn how to use them lovingly, in your favor. Note that after the gloomy scene, both characters leave in pursuit of their inevitable personal transformations, because they felt really bothered by all that had happened.”

“The scene of both characters at Dayse’s place is filled with important symbolisms. See that the director makes a point that the door be opened in slow motion, not to show the couple together, but to emphasize that each one is leaving to have an encounter with themselves. She, unmasked, with her face washed; he, with the excuse of returning her belongings, while in fact he yearned for an apology by the girlfriend and to reestablish his domination.”

“Each one creates their own prison without bars. Hence, the flight to freedom will always be a personal, non-transferable choice.”

“The film shows that each character, in their own way, leaves after the conflict in search of understanding and transformation. She goes on to therapy and meditation, to know herself and the feelings that truly move her; Giovani, in order to write the script, must understand the story he experienced, and that was possible only because he was able to show to himself his hidden face. The healing process starts by one’s acknowledgement of the shadows, so that it can be brought to light and then transmuted once and for all.”

I then asked the cobbler what he thought of the smile Dayse and Geovani exchanged in the final scene. Loureiro did not think twice before answering: “It was a smile of complicity.” Complicity? I thought that odd. I asked what he meant by complicity. The cobbler explained: “They were accomplices in liberation.” Then he made a brief pause and added: “Each one, for their own liberation.”

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