by Jerry Richardson 4/12/15
What are mirrors; and what mirrors do you stand before? Mirrors supposedly reflect the image of whatever is facing them. The presumed purpose of any “mirror” is to reflect, in some fashion reality. But what reality is reflected; and why is that desirable?
The concept of “mirror” is an extensively used metaphor; and in every case it is a metaphor that often contains another metaphor: “Seeing”; where the metaphor “seeing” usually has the sense of “knowing” or “understanding” or “comprehending.”
There are many “mirrors” that we may stand before: Physical mirrors, family mirrors, social mirrors, psychological mirrors, historical mirrors, entertainment mirrors, literature mirrors, and the biblical mirror—all of these except the first are metaphorical and I am not suggesting that my list is complete.
I have three “mirrors” in my life that I pay special attention to:
- My physical mirror.
- My lifemate mirror.
- My spiritual mirror.
MY PHYSICAL MIRROR
My physical mirror is the glass mirror in my bathroom. It is positioned so that it is virtually impossible for me not to notice my reflection several times a day. The current state of my body and the on-going changes are constantly in-my-face.
Aging happens to all us unless and until we die.
As we age things happen to our body. The results are noticeable, but sometimes we’d rather not notice. At the moment, I’m having a weight problem (again for the umpteenth time…I call it climbing fat-mountain) and frankly I don’t like to look at myself in my physical mirror because I know that it will reflect a truth that I had rather not see—my enlarged waistline. But I will continue to look and the mirror is beginning to convince me that I really need to take some remedial action. Yeah, yeah, I know that I’m being sort-of “willfully blind.”
The ongoing lesson for me here is twofold: 1) Truth is often painful; 2) We should never avert our gaze from the truth however unwanted.
MY LIFEMATE MIRROR
My lifemate mirror is my wife of 48 years. It is somewhat difficult for me to describe how effectively she reflects the reality of some of the misdirected thinking that I sometimes throw her way. I get agitated, about some matter, and I often just need to vent; but sometimes, in the process of venting I will also throw-out some half-baked, sort-of-suggestion about something that I am proposing to maybe-do.
This is where the unheralded skill of my lifemate mirror is so valuable. She knows me often better than I know myself. Her almost instant and invariably correct reading of my mood (emotional and mental) is almost scary—like a mind reader—and would be scary if I did not have 100 percent confidence in her integrity and her love for me.
She has known since we were first married that I do not respond well to nagging from anyone. So she never nags. But she reflects my ideas back to me in so many subtle ways. Yet her reflecting does not gloss over the faulty-thinking that is sometimes there. Her reflecting is not a “mirror” that distorts reality—you know, like the mirror in Andersen’s The Snow Queen.
How does she perform her reflecting?
She has an entire repertoire of very effective but inoffensive ways that result in me really examining what I have been saying to her.
She is quite effective with the faint smile—a not encouraging, not quite discouraging half-smile. She uses it to good account along with a barely perceptible mixed head-nod—a little bit of up-and-down with a slight side-movement mixed in. You’d really have to see it and have it pointed-out.
She occasionally, but not very often, uses a face-touch; a delicate version of a face-pull—administered like a physical question mark.
Perhaps her most effective reflection is when she doesn’t say anything, positive or negative, but simply looks at me with an expression that is a mixture of warmth and tenderness seasoned with just a pinch of slight pain, noticed by me only as a little twitch around her eyes. It is very effective in causing me to replay whatever it was that I just said or suggested. And it virtually always results in me sleeping-over-the-matter before taking any definitive action.
My favorite of her verbal reflections was one that she used quite-often for a couple of years before it dawned on me what she was doing. I would make some statement that I realized upon later reflection that she was less than enthusiastic about. At the end of my statement she would say, with a little smile on her face: “That’s a thought.” One day after she had said that, I replied, “Everything’s a thought”! We both had a good laugh. She hasn’t used that much since then; but she doesn’t need to, she just moves on to another of the many effective “mirror” tools in her toolkit.
Of all the things that I absolutely love and adore about my wife, it is her loving, non-hurtful way of disarming my irritations and annoyances, from everyday life, and reflecting may own thoughts back to me, so that I “see” that those flawed-thoughts aren’t really “me.”
I have great trust in being able to spot flaws reflected back to me from my lifemate mirror.
Oh, and did I mention that she is the love of my life?
MY SPIRITUAL MIRROR
My spiritual mirror is the Bible. If we stand before the penetrating “mirror” of scripture, and face it with personal honesty, we will be able to see flaws in our moral and spiritual being that may never be made evident as effectively with any of the other numerous “mirrors” of life.
There are several verses of scripture that deal especially with the important concept of scripture as a “mirror.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
—Genesis 1:27 KJV
As creatures, we “mirror” God in a sense; because we are created “in the image of God.” It is a stunningly important truth often ignored in our modern world. It is the proper spiritual and philosophical foundation for the dignity of mankind (men and women); for human-beings’ equality before God and the law; and for mankind’s true “unalienable” rights.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
—1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV
The English word “glass” in this and the next verses (James 1:23-24) is the translation of a Greek word that means “mirror.” Glass mirrors in the days of Paul were not clear like the ones we have today—modern mirror technology had not been discovered. Obviously, according to the verse, the mirrors were dark and cloudy and the image one saw of his own refection would not be very representative of reality.
This verse above (1 Corinthians 13:12) is the Apostle Paul’s word picture of our present non-clarity of the divine things of God.
The partial and indirect knowledge of Paul’s mirror marks out the passage from a blurred view of the divine to an unobstructed one, thus forming a model for all analogical knowledge.
—Melchoir-Bonnet, Sabine (2014-06-03). The Mirror: A History (Kindle Locations 1688-1689). Kindle Edition.
For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
—James 1:23-24 KJV
James’ use of the “mirror” metaphor is completely different, though important, from Paul’s use of the term.
James’ says, in effect, that a man (or woman) who uses scripture as a “mirror” and sees their self for what they are—morally and spiritually—and then does nothing with the reality of that truth, they are like a person who looks in a mirror and then promptly forgets what they looked like.
For the Bible to be an effective spiritual “mirror” we must approach it with the proper attitude and the Bible tells us what that attitude must be:
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
—Hebrews 11:6 KJV
The value and need of the Bible as a spiritual “mirror” can be increasingly seen and studied in a modern world where many people have chosen to ignore the truth and wisdom in the most read, or at least the most sold, book in the world. The Bible.
THE OFFBEAT MIRROR
In the offbeat mirror department one of the interesting concepts comes from the French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan in his concept of the mirror stage (1936):
The Mirror Stage has to do with the first time the child thinks of itself as ‘I’ in relationship with an image that it starts to understand as representing itself.
…this human baby…is, at some point between the ages of six and eighteen months, going to see an image in the mirror, and realise that it is itself. This will be the first time the baby discovers itself as a unitary being, and this discovery is the source of an intense feeling of joy and excitement, which is usually shared with the adult present; the infant, having made this discovery, turns back to look at its mother, for example, and shares with her its pride and surprise. This founding act, leading to the formation of the ego and the perception of the Subject, is attended by powerful emotion.
—Bailly, Lionel (2012-12-01). Lacan: A Beginner’s Guide (Beginner’s Guides) (p. 29). Kindle Edition.
Here is a link to a cute scene of a young child discovering the amusement of his facial movements in a mirror and illustrating the mirror stage: Baby Looking into a Mirror
We all stand in front of some “mirrors.”
Which ones do you use the most?
© 2015, Jerry Richardson • (2422 views)