The Lost Manuscripts: Dropping the Mask and Exposing the Spirit

Typically The Lost Manuscripts is my tongue-in-cheek time where I share old childhood stories with terrible drawings, bits of the odd angst journal, something to that effect. This time, though, I’m actually going to be serious.

I know, right?

I mentioned in yesterday’s post the anthology project I had to do for my high school senior English project. Basically we had to include so many pieces of work that met so many different criteria that could fit under the same theme. Circumstances being what they were that year, I may have thrown myself into the project. I think I probably went a little overboard with my personal responses to every piece and I opted not to use footnotes (I was still getting used to the word processor we had at the time), but the whole thing ended up being two volumes. Heh. Yeah, overachiever much?

At any rate, what floors me now is what I chose for the theme. This was very much on my mind all that  year, more so in the latter part, but still…for a seventeen-year-old this was ambitious. I can’t remember what other kids did, but I remember realizing how either over-the-top I was in comparison or just how far off the path my mind tended to go.

My theme ended up being Dropping the Mask and Exposing the Spirit: a Personal Anthology

I wanted to take a look underneath all the roles people were playing, the roles people saw the world through, and the roles I was attempted to play to see what was actually underneath. Through literature. I’m pretty sure I was inspired by the John Milton quote : Eas’d the putting off these troublesome disguises which we wear.

I was either the most ambitious seventeen-year-old for miles or one of the most arrogant. Vote’s still out on that.

At any rate, digging for material and discovering my personal thoughts on it helped me continue through some difficult months. Obviously I’ve kept this monstrosity, and it still helps me from time to time. It reminds me of what my core beliefs are, what my inner interests are. That’s the thing: I truly, truly believed in digging down and finding the beauty under the surface of every aspect I was exploring. I still do.

Since most of this is copyrighted material and some of my personal responses are still fairly personal (and why use up possibly bloggy content all at once?),  I’m just going to post the story list that I ended up using, as well as the introduction I wrote. The section breakdowns are also mine, which takes us back to insightful and possibly arrogant teen thing.




 At least I was a crafty, arrogant teen! It's a mask that opens up and exposes the spirit - get it!?

Delving In: Starting the Journey

Invitation by Shel Silverstein

Placing My Hand Into Yours: Acceptance of Ourselves and Others:

The Empire Strikes Back by Donald F. Glut (chapter involving Luke meeting/not recognizing Yoda and Han and Leia finally dropping their pretenses)

Demeter by Bernard Evslin

Many Waters by Madline L’Engle (chapter involving Yalith trying to determine what her feelings are for the twins, also goes into the shifting abilities of the Nephilim and Seraphim)

Around the Fire: Stories and History of Our Elders

May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916-1954

Sketches from a Life by George Kennan

New England Years: a Journal of Vermont Farm Life by Muriel Follett

A Home in the Woods: Pioneer Life in Indiana: Oliver Johnson’s Reminiscences of Early Marion County as Related by Howard Johnson

Pulling Back the Curtain: Seeing Creation With New Eyes

Stillness After Rain by Keach Hagey

A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

Everyone Knows the Dragon is Only a Mythical Beast by Eric Wikramanayake

I Am Cat by Jane Yolen

Seeing is Believing: Truth in Fantasy

Once They All Believed in Dragons by Jack Prelutsky

A Pilgrim’s Search for Relics of the Once and Future King by Caroline Alexander

Seeing Past the Surface: Finding Inner Beauty in Overlooked Ideas and People

What is Success by Ralph Waldo Emmerson

A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I’m Guilty but I didn’t Commit the Crime (peer-written poem by a friend of mine)

Allerleirauh or the Many-Furred Creature edited by Judy Sierra

Skin Deep: The Fat Dancer’s Tale by AC Crispin

Follow the River by James Alexander Thom (the gauntlet chapter)

Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Butterfly Woman chapter)

Granted, because a lot of these had to follow so many requirements (Indiana author, so many nonfiction, one from personal archives, and on and on), I did do a little stretching. Still, each had transformative elements and alluded to either a hidden nature or our ability to gloss over the real nature of things in favor of the surface. I recommend each and every piece, though, and I definitely read every single thing in its entirety on this list and loved it.

My Introduction to the whole shebang is as follows. Please be kind and remember I was still a kid…

Throughout history, masks have been an important contribution to our culture. They have shown up everywhere: ceremonies of religion and medicine, holidays and festivals like Halloween and Mardi Gras, theater, and even literature like The Phantom of the Opera and Masque of the Red Death. They are enjoyable and sacred to many different cultures.

However, there is another type of mask that we all put on daily. I am speaking of the emotional fronts all of us tend to put up in order to hide our true selves. Being a teenager, I am quite an expert. For whatever reason we choose to wear them, masks give us a certain sense of protection, but they can also impair us emotionally. We cannot see clearly through our eyeholes, so our sense of what is around us is distorted. Sometimes masks cause us to trust others less and become more secretive. Even we cannot see ourselves clearly anymore.

There are times that we need to look at who our spirit really is, appreciate it, and then drop the mask to show the world. This action wil improve self-esteem, as well as help us to see through the masks of the world around us. I have recently been able to drop my mask, and have decided to do it more blatantly through this anthology. I have become open to a world that I only saw bits and pieces of before and have learned things about myself that I previously had no idea of. All of the pieces in this book relate to different types of masks and disguises that one comes up against, and why these should be removed. I will also discuss how these pieces relate to me personally and talk about the things I have discovered about myself while reading the different works.

It is my hope that the reader will not only enjoy the different selections, but also contemplate how they relate to him or her, personally. I hope that they will take away not pain from any revelations, but a sense of comfort in what they have discovered in themselves and the world around them.


I’d usually poke immediate fun at looking back at old work, but honestly, I agree with most of this. Aside from a bit of teen arrogance and stilted style, it ain’t bad. I’m kinda amazed I had the balls to do something like this, given that I also had to read parts of this to the class as part of the assignment. I’m pretty certain that I chose the theme somewhere toward the middle of the year if I remember correctly. I had begun looking through work early on, but couldn’t decide on a theme, so I made a list of everything I liked up until I could figure something out. The subject had fascinated me long before I had my attitude change moment that year. There’s also obviously a huge amount of influence from Clarissa Pinkola Estes here, too. I mean really, bless my baby Jungian heart, dude! The fact that I even attempted this is awesome! Still, I can definitely see this as a personal ‘screw you, normals,’ to an extent, a moment of taking a stand to celebrate all the things I liked just for me for once in my life. That was huge – finally, finally I was saying what I really felt, and doing it just for me.

While I’ll admit to the playing conversations up or talking loud or being stupid to get certain people to look my way because, yeah, that always works and never backfires, people had this odd idea that the things I liked: drawing, Star Wars, and probably music and theatre now that I think of it, were ways for me to get people to like me. While I wouldn’t have minded being a little more popular or some actual attention from the opposite sex, I can honestly say that I really didn’t think ahead that much.  I hate to tell those people, but I was just that much of a geek and shy. My bad that I wasn’t that manipulative.

No wonder I was pushed to the point where this was what was on my mind. I vaguely remember getting to a point that I just wished that I could sit down with people and feel like I was talking to the actual person. It’s not like I went to school with a bunch of pod people aliens, but I think that on the whole, we’re conditioned to give certain answers to certain people and act a certain way throughout our day, maybe even to ourselves. That kind of thing has always been frustrating to me, and at that point I was tired of having those same assumptions that I was playing a role or had an ulterior motive leveled at me.

It was liberating, exploring the themes and starting to get below the surface of what I actually felt and wanted, as well. While I’ll never be a professional Jungian (there are teams for that, right?), it’s an area that continues to fascinate me and always will. I love archetypes and metaphor, and it’s intriguing and inspiring that I was willing to put that much effort into this sort of thing that early on. Yay, seventeen-year-old me. You were awesome.

3 thoughts on “The Lost Manuscripts: Dropping the Mask and Exposing the Spirit

  1. I remember, Selah, being amazed at your insight and maturity when I read your project. Thank you (however many years later this is)!!

    1. I owe you all the thanks for helping me unlock that part of myself! To this day I’m still kind of flabbergasted that I came up with that, and I still enjoy rereading it (although the cover needs some tlc or I need to rebind it). – SJ

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