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WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)? It ain't necessarily so...


When I give birth to a fictional character I want that character to be aware of who they are and to have sense of their personal identity. I also want to bring them into a story line as if they were real breathing people, just imprisoned in words. I want to include their awareness of themselves. I want to see them playing their 'roles' and wearing their 'masks' like we do in real life. I want the reader to know what they're really like both on the inside and on the outside. Puzzled?

Our identity is perhaps the single thing we should prize and cherish about ourselves. It is a crucial key in helping us to unlock the meaning of our life in the context of our existence. Our identity is shaped by the constantly changing circumstances of living. Assume here that we actually get to the truth of who we are eventually, if that is even possible. The trouble is who we are is rarely how we're seen or perceived by the world. We face the world from behind masks of our own designs. Yes, plural - masks. We wear different masks according to the different roles we choose to play. I'd like to think that the computer speak WYSIWYG could be applied to me but of course it can't. What you see is what you get may sound perfectly plausible but disintegrates under close scrutiny. Who or what we are depends on our audience? Yes we do have an audience and one that constantly changes for the unscripted drama that is our life and the roles we choose to play in it. Good old Will Shakespeare got it right in my estimation when he wrote:

"All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances..."

To my daughters I am their father while to my two grandsons some ancient stern relic who won't tolerate misbehaviour. To my wife... who knows me better than any anyone else after forty-one years...perhaps better not to go there! To my various friends? Their version is not going to be anything like I imagine their perception of me to be. I'd rather not contemplate how they see me because a kick in the reality gonads can be as painful as in the real ones. and longer lasting. Of one thing I am certain. We all pretend to be something we are not at some point in life, if not all the way through most of it. It's human nature but doing so can come with unforeseen costs.

So, what am I actually going on about? Deception. Not just being deceived by others but about self-deception, a far worse ill. Adopting an identity to fit in with a group or somebody can be one of the worst sins against self that you can do. In Catholic terms how sinful would I rate this? Mortal (Grave) or Venial (Not quite bad enough to be mortal but bad enough)? If the self-inflicted deception meant turning away from the reality of yourself deliberately in the full knowledge of the depth of illusion you were intent upon creating then I'd judge it as mortal. Straying from who you are is a destructive act, a malignancy to the spirit that like a cancer will devour and eventually destroy you if it comes to light before others.

What about a venial act? Everybody has done this to a greater or lesser extent. Think about the exaggerated tale a man may spin to impress a woman on a first meeting? A typical fiction that won't last the course if the relation is to progress. Or the woman who pretends she dresses provocatively claiming it's to please herself when in actuality she knows this is nothing less than to be deliberate man bait. Once hooked the prim and proper will emerge from the shadows. Both are roles for the 'occasion' but with long term potentially damaging consequences.

Ah! That's nothing less than telling yourself a lie as well as lying to others. Of course it is. Deception is lying no matter how you try to spin it. Lying to yourself about yourself is the worst kind of dishonesty and deception. It works against yourself like a poison.

We are what we pretend to be. Operative word pretend. Be careful what you pretend to be. because there are always consequences of some kind.


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