The Looking Glass / by kevin murray

There are probably a multitude of items that Americans just takes for granted on a day-to-day basis to which if we didn't have these items, we would certainly notice them missing from our lives.  Take, for instance, your ordinary mirror, which comes in a variety of common ways, from your traditional bathroom mirror attached to the wall, to your handheld mirror usually located in your bathroom, to your full length dressing mirror found often in your bedroom, to your pocket mirror that most women wouldn't be caught dead without, and to the rearview mirror in our automobiles.  This doesn't even take into account the industrial uses of mirrors, which encompasses spotlights, flashlights, telescopes, and cameras, along with many other usages.


Humans are visual creatures to which you will spend your entire life, never once seeing yourself physically from outside your body, only through the aid of an mirror will you be able to see your face and that face will have a left/right reversal to it, and only with the aid of another mirror will you be able to get a true look at your backside.  Since humans spend an inordinate amount of time looking at others, gazing at others, to not have a mirror to see yourself on a routine basis, would be a stunning reversal of fortune.  In point of fact, the first mirrors were bodies of still water that could capture your reflection under the right lighting conditions, to which in Greek mythology we are told of the beautiful and proud Narcissus, who lead to a body of water by Nemesis was able to see his reflection for the first time, fell in love with this image, not realizing that it was his own, and unable to receive reciprocal love from this image, despaired and committed suicide.


Fortunately, today mirrors are common items, but if they weren't, most people would be shocked, appalled, or distressed upon seeing the image of their face for the first time, not so much because they would instantly notice their flaws, while ignoring their beauty, but mainly because of all the time they had previously spent staring, grooming, and examining others while making in their mind's eye a composite sketch of their own face, which would invariably be found to be in error.  There would therefore be that initial disbelief that the reflected image must be a lie before an ultimate resignation that the face they saw reflected back to them was indeed their face that the public and friends had always gazed upon.


Billions upon billions of dollars are spent on cosmetic products yearly, mainly because we can see ourselves through our mirrors, as contrasted to our ability to simply see others.  If mirrors or the looking glass for some reason didn't exist, our humility would probably be a lot higher, and our vanity would most likely be a lot lower.  Instead, through the looking glass, our pride has swelled up; our envy for those that are more beautiful than ourselves fills us with wrath, we lust for others or even for ourselves, we are greedy for more of everything that will boost us up, yet often we are too lazy to put forth the effort to do so, and finally when all else fails, we find solace in excessive wine and food.