Are We Merely Players? Part 1 by Jan Engels-Smith
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts….
William Shakespeare, As You Like It
In one of my journeys a year ago, I saw many nonphysical beings present as the audience in a large theater arrayed among balconies and tiers and on the floor of the theater, who observed human performers acting their parts in the drama of life. I came to understand that these beings found us humans assuming roles of our imagined selves, playing the parts we thought others had expected of us or acting out imaginary protagonists that we defined as ourselves. The nonphysical beings seemed fascinated and even amused by the efforts of humans to become something other than their true selves. These intergalactic beings understood that these humans were blurring the lines between their real selves and these imagined characters and thereby losing the ability to understand their true natures.
The spirits explained to me that we humans continue to play parts of fictional characters that we have created to explain ourselves according to expectations of others and our ego self’s need to create a façade to conceal some truth that we fear. This avoidance of knowing and being ourselves stems from a distorted belief that we are somehow not good enough or worthy of the life we have been given, and the spirits were puzzled by this odd sense of ourselves because they saw and understood us in the context of a perfect universe, unified in a wholeness and completeness that belied any sense of unworthiness. These beings had one identity—their true nature and the role they played in existence being the same—and they did not distinguish their essence from their behaviors. The intergalactic beings were both bemused and amused by the strangeness of our mentality that had a need to create caricatures of ourselves rather than realizing that the reality of who we really are is more than sufficient, even magnificent.
I thought of the way in which we observe actors portraying characters that cause us to imagine that the actor is the person she is portraying and how we come to believe that the performer embodies the fictional character until we see her in a real life setting where we are reminded that the two persons are distinctly different. The real and the imagined coexist but only one bears the truth of the person’s nature. Watching a situation comedy or drama on television we identify with the character being portrayed as a quick wit, a buffoon, an anxious individual given to panic, a courageous hero, or any of a million other imagined stereotypes and lose sight of the person behind the performance mask. If an actor plays a character often enough, he may even become typecast and struggle to get a different role because of how the audience has come to identify with the fictional character. We are sometimes shocked and surprised when we observe the performer in a real life situation and discover that they are very different from the character they play. In the same way, we allow others to see who we imagine they want us to be and we may even begin to believe that we are the person we are creating. The intergalactic beings were most puzzled by our self-deception in our believing that what we pretend to be is somehow better than what we truly are. Their puzzlement stemmed from their knowledge of the perfection of the universe and that in our oneness with the cosmos we could not be less than perfect. In fact, these beings seemed most concerned that we in subtle ways imparted our imagined flaws to the characters that we played rather than using all of that energy to find the perfection within ourselves.
This is a lesson to be learned well and a truth that can alter both individuals and social systems. When Shakespeare in Hamlet has the character Polonius say, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man,” the playwright references Hamlet’s tragic flaw—a great man’s failure to be true to that which he knows is his authentic self. We fool ourselves by our playacting, but deep within we constantly hear voices that keep us aware that something is not resonating with our inner selves when our pretenses are displayed to others. These voices are the spirits subtly reminding us that we are making unnecessary choices to not display our true natures. The spirits know that this inner self is the better self and that if we can discover and exhibit the perfect being that lies within us than we and all around us will be the better for it. This better self is the True Self.