Mirrors and other reflective surfaces may well be the most damaging invention and technology humans have come up with.
The mirror is a tool of testing self awareness with elephants, the test is to put unscented dye on the elephant’s face and place a mirror – if the elephant can recognize the elephant in the mirror is itself, it will touch the place on itself that has been marked and if not, it will touch the elephant in the mirror.
The mirror changed how we understood ourselves and our relationships to other people. Before mirrors, our sense of self was drawn from other people – how they interacted with us, how they responded – and we could determine our place by having an awareness of how we all interacted with each other and understood how we were responded to among all the relationships.
Our validation, belonging and worth was drawn from the interactions generally and the interactions with us and others specifically and compared to the way people reacted and treated other people.
Instead of relying on other people for understanding ourselves, seeing how we reflect back to ourselves in their responses and interactions with us, we became able to gaze directly on our own faces, and to judge ourselves in relationship to others, rather than develop an understanding of ourselves in how others placed us among the village of people.
Mirrors or being able to gaze upon ourselves and seeing ourselves directly, gave us a different sense of how we should be treated, no longer did we have to rely on others, we could decide for ourselves. For Narcissus of the Roman myths, was so love struck with his own image, that he died trying to embrace his image in the water and scorned food and drink.
Mirrors changed our relationship to ourselves and to others – we didn’t need others to reflect ourselves back, to indirectly determine our worth and standing. Mirrors allowed us to see ourselves as we saw others and arrive at a sense of our own worth and social standing as we could determine for other people – mirrors changed how we all interacted with each other – we no longer had to see ourselves through others, we could gaze directly upon ourselves, we could, finally, look ourselves in our eyes and hold ourselves accountable, responsible for our actions.
More than better understanding the relative attractiveness of ourselves compared to others, mirrors became not merely a vanity reflection, but a reality check of our minds. Did we hold ourselves in too high or low a regard? Were we able to look ourselves – through the mirror – in the eyes and meet our own gaze? Could we live up to the image we had of ourselves? Did our center hold?
When we gaze into the mirror, do we see in ourselves what others see? Or do we see something more or something less? Is that gaze comfortable or discomforting? Is that gaze as gazing into the abyss? Are we the monster of the dark or the bringer of the dawn?