Discuss the concept of masks in Kahlil Gibran's The Madman.

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Throughout The Madman—a collection of parables and poems—Kahlil Gibran explores the way in which we all too often hide our true selves behind a mask that we present to the world.

In Gibran's reading, the true self is "a human chaos, a nebula of confused elements." That being the case, so many of us find it difficult to handle who and what we truly are. All too often we find that it's so much easier to put on an alternative persona which imposes some measure of order and stability on our interactions with the world around us and the people who live in it.

But this desire for stability comes at the cost of authenticity. Our numerous faults and imperfections may be difficult to handle at times, but they are what give us our basic humanity. In simple terms, it's our imperfections, our "madness" if you will, that makes us human. And once we try to obscure those imperfections with a mask, we become somewhat less than human.

Gabran understands all too well how difficult it is to live without our masks, which act as a kind of emotional crutch to help us deal with the ups and downs of our daily lives. But, drawing upon a colorful legend, he gives thanks to the "thieves" who stole all his masks in a previous life, thus allowing him to lead an authentic existence.

To be sure, such an existence will be a very difficult one, not least because everyone else will regard him as a madman. But at least it will be an authentic existence, and in living his life, the so-called madman will be able to stay true to himself: and that's what really matters.

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