Looking in mirrors is a high risk activity.
The mirror on the wall is a reflection of reality. In fact, it is real itself. It is a solid structure, capable of bouncing light back in a uniform fashion.
What you see in the mirrors inside, that’s where the distortion takes place. That’s where reflection becomes most dangerous. But also most important.
Everything that comes into the eye is bounced onto the back of your eye and flipped and interpreted by your brain. You are an unreliable narrator.
For me, reflection goes hand in hand with self destruction. Or self harm. Or self loathing. Or self obsession. (Self disgust is self obsession honey, and I do as I please).
But it also leads to growth. It’s not until I’ve realised my failings that I’ve found ways past them. You need to know where you are now to move forward, at least if you want to head in the right direction. That’s basic orienteering, right there.
But there’s an issue with looking at the self. One key thing I’ve noticed is the time lapse. People have a tendency to see themselves as they were, rather than as they are. This is often a huge distortion, the realities of self change, sometimes rapidly.
So reflection is important, but it has to be accurate.
This can be tricky. Memory comes in rosey tints, for the most part, and self analysis looks to me a lot like psychosis.
Is reflection perhaps the right word? Is it analysis, digging and excavating that cause the problem?
Like we said, a mirror offers a perfect (reversed) image (in theory, if flat). An accurate surface layer is still just the surface. Is there any use in digging any deeper. I’m hunting a Maugham quote I read the other day, but can’t find it, it’s from ‘The Summing Up’ and it paraphrases as: Philosophy is just a way for finding pretty excuses for decisions we have already made.
There’s a problem with self-reflection, in that it’s more about finding excuses and narratives for paths that have already been walked. Lies to self, to convince you of your wrongness or your rightness, depending which way you incline.
But it doesn’t stop being important. Not ever.
The past is what we are built on. That is where the present comes from. And we must build the future on top of that.
If we want our future to be a path we choose ourself, we must know the routes we’ve taken before. Know where we are now, and know where we want to go. Or at least what directions are important to us.
You can’t know the future, but you can look at the past, and learn from it.
That is reflection.
I look in the mirror and sometimes I see a monster and sometimes I see a god.
They are both inside me, and not just on the surface.
I can be beautiful, if I learn to deal with my reflection.
Illustration by Adam.