Yesterday I saw the most amazing thing. On my way to work, heading up the bridge ramp to Waugh Street, I noticed a woman on the side street to my right. She was battling a two-story inflatable “Lady Liberty” – a huge Statue of Liberty blow-up doll in green plastic, tethered to the ground next to what I presume is her place of business – a tax service of some kind. The wind was blowing and “Lady L” had crashed to the ground-so the woman was literally wrestling her back into place – finally, then, there she was, the balloon lady, head upright, her bilious green lantern raised, once again, on high, to proclaim to the world, “give me your tired, your poor, your hopelessly entangled receipts and tax records….”
What was a bit confusing at first was the woman’s garb – not the plastic woman, the business owner. She was dressed in some kind of silky green garment, a dress or skirt that extended to her ankles – obscured a bit by the coat she was wearing - a white ski parka with that fake fur around the hood. In a split second, I realized, the green of her clothing and its style perfectly matched the outfit of the other woman – the business owner was Lady Liberty, too!
I laughed out loud and thought, “Carl Jung would have a field day with this!” Here, before my eyes was a tableau of the classic battle of Self against Persona – Lady Liberty going mano á mano against herself – struggling to keep that larger than life personality, the flawless face she shows to the world, erect, up front, at large! The tiny true self, a replica of the persona in miniature, but so much more vulnerable, so much more approachable, so much more real – was working so hard to keep the image she preferred to show the world in place. A cosmic, timeless battle – won for the day, but noting the strong winds that buffeted her in these harsh days of winter, you knew that this scene would be replayed again and again…
Jesus said once, “every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” (Matthew 12:25). He was talking to the Pharisees, who were constantly posturing with him – trying to show the world a righteous and holy face, but, in fact, were actually hypocrites...literally, ones with false faces – smiling on the outside, while filled with guile and treachery, using religious rules and ideology as weapons to trap him.
“You’ll know my real followers by their fruit” Jesus says a little later – just like trees are known by their fruit. In this world, there is lots of pressure to maintain our personas – to present to the world, one perfect, larger than life image of ourselves, which is not consistent with who we really are. We get focused on appearances, rather than substance – get trapped into showing a false face, when the faces with which we are created are way more valuable, way more precious to the One who created us. I wonder if the flesh and blood Lady L would ever abandon her struggle and settle for her own powerful image of liberty, her own true self, as the one she showed the world – and finally, would value that face more, for the relative ease of maintaining it. I wonder just how long it will take me – and all of us, to end that wrestling match as well. It's way past time for most of us to cut the tether ropes and let those personas fly!