September 03, 2009


For the past few years, I realize that people do change more because of the environment that has shaped them. Personalities, it seem, are as fluid as the ebbing of the tide- it may not be as apparent at first sight but if one looks into the minutiae of every action and intonation, one may detect a change in the way the wind blows.

Being introspective, I realized I had changed in which direction I cannot say right now. I learned how one becomes morose, more circumspect where one tends to have squashed whatever joie d’vivre is left. Of course it’s not an overnight learning. It’s the sum of all experiences that produces whatever effect one feels. From all the deaths and despair you see in the patients’ families, the emotional challenges brought about by your peers and consultants and the workload one has to bear has buffeted me into silent seclusion. While others become enlightened, others wind up defeated, others become obfuscated. It is as if we are the stones in the river being constantly battered by the strong currents. Life is like that. Forces outside our control shape us into that which we cannot recognize anymore.

Others would complain that their personality is consistent from Day 1. No one can say for sure one stays the same. It’s just not in the nature of the universe to remain in its axis. Everything proceeds according to the law of entropy where all systems are in constant flux. This, I feel, applies to people also but with a caveat that what is apparent is not entirely the whole picture. We do change but the rate of change depends on the person itself- to disguise it temporarily, to accept it entirely or to deny it endlessly. Many I know disguise these changes momentarily but Fate makes it difficult to sustain it just like food being retained in the mouth, one can't help but chew it and swallow.

According to James Clavell, the Japanese have three hearts: one that is shown to the public, one that the person only knows, and one that is secret. I guess that’s also true for humans. What you see is not what you get. What is merely shown is just the persona- not the person itself. One tends to cling to that which one thinks is rightly acceptable to the public face thereby creating shadows of our own design. By doing so, we become eggshells of our former selves. Gaston Leroux's Phantom is a personification of this. We try to preserve that previous persona while trying to understand and assimilate the new ideas and experiences we acquire. The smile one exudes or the gregarious manner one speaks may not be way he or she thinks. It is not being plastic. It our defense mechanism to compartmentalize these new changes while preserving the former ego so that the system could still function smoothly. Think of it as feeling of frustration of using Windows Vista because one is used on using Windows XP but you don't actually whack the CPU. Another example is when one tries to enjoy drinking and carousing late at night with the barkada but quickly loses interest in this former hobby because you’re already accustomed to the domesticated life.

However, we try our best that this change are not felt by others because we want to continue the present relationship we have with them. We don’t want to alienate them for we know if we shout at them a bit more or be sarcastic at them more often, we change the pulse of the moment thereby disrupting everyone’s harmony. It’s good if people try or do understand us. What if there are more who do not and take our change in personality at face value? We lose face in the process. That is why we put up these walls, these masks, these eggshells of our former selves- to protect our own ego from change.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try in putting up masks and fences, the inner gurglings of our hearts seep through the sheets staining them red or black where everyone can see it. Fate has that way of ferreting out the hidden aspect of your Self that in one unguarded moment, you fall flat on your face. For instance, one may feel that your voice doesn’t carry that certain friendliness despite whatever civility your words may imply. Or that despite your prudishness, you drop Freudian slips when referring to a certain person. No matter how hard we try hiding our hidden heart, it escapes our clutches for everyone to see.

That is the tragedy of it all. Where all the king's horses, and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again.

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