Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Mirrors are a funny thing sometimes. There are frequent analogies, sayings and myths about what you find by looking in a mirror, but I want to discuss a particular point that could go both ways.

Some might argue that the invention of the mirror was the beginning of vanity: if you can see yourself, you wonder how others see you, and whether they approve. The Greek myth of Narcissus tells of a young man (Narcissus) who was known for his good looks and arrogance, who was divinely punished to fall in love with his own reflection, and so he did, and pined away until death. Vanity can be just as consuming in our time. If you're always worrying about how you look, you'll miss out on the chances of simply "being you." Because of this possibility, mirrors could be seen as selfish devices, evil and worthy of shunning.

On the other hand, the same ability of a mirror - to reflect oneself - could be as critical to human development as to human destruction. Without self-examination, how can we ever make progress? Just as a gardener may know the most aesthetically desirable places to trim a tree by studying it, we may learn what areas we need to improve in by seeing ourselves as we are now. There are many kinds of mirrors - introspective and external - to look at different parts of our lives and find opportunities for correction (and this is where many analogies come into play, whether we're looking into a true mirror or a distorted circus mirror).

So the same object, a mirror, can be used for one purpose - self-evaluation - but to different ends. The only difference between those ends is the beholder and what he or she chooses to do with the image. Why do you look into a mirror? Are you focused on fixing how how others perceive you, or are you trying to improve yourself for improvement's sake? Are mirrors the downfall of the human race, or the elevating of it? As with so many things, it's up to you and what you do.

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