Monday, February 26, 2007

Mirrors


My husband took this photo during a recent business trip to Washington. The extraordinary glass of the lake creates a mirror image that can be viewed with equal awe both right-side up and upside down!

When I was a kid, sometimes I'd consider the possibility that a whole parallel universe existed on the opposite side of the mirror.

What do you see when you gaze into a mirror? I'm always perplexed. There is hardly a time when I view images of myself without feeling unsettled. Who is that person that is occupying my body, I wonder. Why does she carry herself in that manner, why does she appear to be angry or why does she look sad? Viewing our image in a mirror commutes our consciousness from something that we presume is intrinsic to being IN our bodies, to something that can apear and feel so alien from withOUT. Therefore mirrors are almost like peanut galleries, mocking our perspectives, calling into question things we presume are critical aspects of our identities. You have become a stranger to yourself, no longer buoyant or resilient, the mirror might suggest, or simply different than you imagined yourself to be.

Piggy-backing onto my recent shopping reflection, I can say that mirrors are recently responsible for my sense of mortality. We are always told that life is short, but when we're young it can seem endless. My mirror reveals to me that despite my best efforts--I am aging, and life passes you by like that commercial where Fabio morphs into an ancient old man in the time it takes to pass beneath a Venetian bridge.

Jacques Lacan used the representation (both literal and metaphorical) of a mirror to mark the time in our infancy when we recognize our image and it suggests to us a certain lack, or "otherness." I think Lacan skewed many aspects of this mirror stage, but in basic theory he got it right. We never truly can SEE or objectify ourselves--we are innately situated in our personal bias--and thus the profound misunderstandings that keep repeating themselves historically on this human-occupied earth. We feel so invested in what feels like the truth of our knowledge of ourselves.

Still, sometimes maybe we can use the concept of the reverse image to finally recognize just how beautiful things are--including ourselves--in all their innate positive and negative embodiments. I suppose when I consider the level of consciousness I gain as I traverse through life, I can presume that in having lived, weathered, and experienced the stuff of living, in the end that newborn baby I began as, and withered old woman I'll end up as, were equally beautiful in that they were one and the same, wholehearted life.

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