Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Fairest can of Them All?

As for mirrors, perhaps we would do well to acknowledge that there might be more than one kind.

Clearly, as in the physical world, there is the tangible one, the objective one we consult as if it's another form of ourselves. It reflects back to us an image we have been trained to examine, critique and clean up before we leave the house; how do we look, how's our hair, have we combed it, do we need a haircut, what about our shirt, pants, socks and shoes, is it "snowing down south", have we done a good job putting on our face?

The implied question is, "Are we presentable", in other words, "Are we acceptable to others?".

Less clearly, perhaps even obscurely, even subconsciously, there "exists", in the sense that we experience an influence on us, another kind of mirror. It is the subjective one we would do well to consult, but often shy away from because it is so multi-faceted, and as such can appear to provide us with a blurred, if not distorted image, and therefore be confusing. It is not comprised of objective and logical stuff, but personally felt subjective and values stuff.

That kind of mirror also implies the question, "Are we acceptable?" Implied in that question are the unstated words, "and meet with the approval of others". Also unstated are the qualifications of the "others" to have and to hold license to judge us.

However, the criteria in this context and of this venue are quite different from those of the physical, objective mirror.

Both kinds of mirrors constitute reality to the extent that they exist, which is to say that we are influenced by what they reflect back to us. Both kinds of mirrors challenge us to consider how we are perceived and thus judged; by ourselves, as a proxy for others, based on how we were trained to be acceptable and to fit in, or by others we hope will accept us for how we look and behave.

Neither of those mirrors can describe who we are in our essence, since, by definition, the best they can do is to describe or portray who we seem to be to others, our mirrors, at a given time and place.

Robert Burns wrote about this. "Oh wad some power the giftie gie us To see oursel's as others see us!

Mirrors provide us with an unvarnished, airbrush free objective image by reflecting back to us, in accordance with the laws of physics, the visible details of our physical being, warts and all; except for one seemingly insignificant, but important difference. The reflection is of us, but it is not us. It is an image of us, complete, but opposite in every detail, an image of us, but not us. And so that reflection, in a sense, is a 100% false image. Still and yet we would do well not to dismiss it as being without value.

That reflection has value because we can see in it the details we need to acknowledge, some of which we can ascribe to aging, accept and take no action, and some of which we can evaluate as in need of advice from a health care professional. Whether what we see appears to be on the left or right side of us is likely only of interest to those who are drawn by their nature to be critical in their approach to life, their scientific analysis.

The news of the day, to the extent that one listens to and views it, also provides us with a kind of mirror. However the reflection we see in that mirror is not a realistic and objective one, but a subjective and an enhanced, air-brushed, even distorted one. To the extent that we respond to it, however positively or negatively, it reflects back to us our personal perceptions, our values, our preferences and even those prejudices through which we prefer to perceive and make judgments about the world in which we find ourselves living for a time.

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