The first layer of your personality is the most superficial – the layer of formalities, socialities. It is needed; nothing is wrong in it. You meet a person on the road, you know the person, if you don’t say anything, and he also doesn’t say anything, no social formality is fulfilled, you both feel embarrassed. Something has to be done. Not that you mean it, but it is a social lubricant; so the first layer I call: The layer of the lubricant. It helps smoothness. It is the layer of: Good morning; How are you? Great! Fine! Nice weather! Well, be seeing you; this layer. This is good! Nothing is wrong in it. If you use it, it is beautiful. But if you are used by it, and you have become frozen in it, and you have lost all contact with your innermost being, you never move beyond this, then you are stuck, you are sickminded.
It is beautiful to say “Good morning” to somebody, but a person who never says more than that is very ill. He has no contact with life. In fact, these formalities are not a lubricant to him, on the contrary, they have become a withdrawal, an avoidance. You see somebody, you say “Good morning” to avoid him, so that you can go on your own way, and he can go on his; to escape from him.
This social formality has become a frozen thing with millions of people; they live on this layer, they never move beyond it: etiquette, mannerism, words, chatter – always on the surface. They talk, not to communicate, they talk to avoid communication. They talk to avoid the embarrassing situation in which you encounter the other. They are closed people. If their life is a misery there is no wonder in it. If they live in hell, it is obvious they have to live in hell. In fact they are dead people.
The founder of Gestalt therapy, Fritz Perls, used to call this layer the “Chicken Shit” layer; dead, dry. Many people live in the chicken shit. Their whole life is just a useless formality. They move nowhere, they are stuck at the door, they have not entered the chamber of life. It has many chambers, they are just standing at the door, on the steps. Steps are good if you overstep them, they are dangerous if you start clinging to them.
So remember, a healthy person uses the formality layer; then it is a lubricant, it is beautiful. An unhealthy person makes it his whole life; smiles – does not mean it, laughs – does not mean it. If somebody is dead he becomes sad, cries, even tears flow down – all false! He does not mean it. He never means anything. He is just continuously on show, continuously on display. His whole life is just an exhibition. He cannot enjoy it, because he cannot move withinwards.
Formality is not a relationship. It can help, it can hinder. A healthy person uses it to go deeper. An unhealthy person becomes stuck in it. You can see those people all around, smiling in Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs. Chicken shit people. Always well-dressed, groomed, looking perfectly okay – and absolutely wrong. Completely ill. Utterly unhealthy. But just showing.
This becomes a fixed pattern with them. When they come back from the Rotary Club or the Lions Club they talk to their children – but just on the same level. They make love to their wives – but just on the same level. Their whole life is a long series of mannerisms. Books on etiquette are their Bibles; Gitas and Koran, and they think if they fulfill whatsoever is required of them by the society, they have achieved.
This layer has to be broken. Remain aware that you don’t get caught. Remain aware; if you are stuck at this level, become aware! The very awareness will help the block to melt, evaporate; and the energy will be available to enter into the second layer.